Sa Chau fish sauce - specialty condiment of Nam Dinh province

Thursday, 2022-02-03 09:18:17
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Sa Chau fish sauce - specialty condiment of Nam Dinh province (Photo: vietnamnet.vn)
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NDO/VNA – Sa Chau village of Giao Chau commune in Giao Thuy district, the northern province of Nam Dinh, has long been famous for the traditional production of fish sauce whose pungent smell can grasp any visitor’s attention before they reach the village’s gate.

The production of fish sauce in Giao Chau commune dates back centuries and originates in Sa Chau village. As the condiment is completely made by hand, the production process is extremely meticulous.

Ingredients are mainly “nuc” and “cuom” fish or tiny prawn, all of which must be fresh, not frozen or decomposed. Locals divide one year into sunny and rainy seasons and they make fish sauce in the sunny season in the middle of the year while selling the product in the year’s beginning or ending months, when it rains a lot.

Not only fish but salt is also carefully selected. The salt used for making fish sauce is bought from late April through May and features dry and white flakes. In particular, salt must be kept in warehouse for more than one year to get rid of the acrid taste before use.

The production process here is also more sophisticated than that in other places. Every 10 kilogrammes of fish is marinated with about 1.2 - 1.3 kilogrammes of salt and kept for six months so that the fish completely breaks down. After that, the mixture is poured into a bamboo basket covered with coarsely homespun fabric to extract pure fish sauce.

The sauce is later contained in aluminum crocks and left in the sun until white salt appears in the surface. As the condiment must not be contaminated with water, people must cover it carefully on rainy days.

Producing fish sauce at first appears to be a leisured craft but is in fact a highly strenuous job. Only one batch of fish marinated improperly or polluted with rainwater could ruin their months of hard work.

The Sa Chau fish sauce has by now become renowned far and wide and been distributed to various provinces and cities nationwide, from northern mountainous provinces such as Dien Bien and Son La to others in the south like Ho Chi Minh City and Tay Ninh province.