- Jun 28, 2020
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND REPUTATION
The “pearl island” of Phú Quốc is the Vietnam’s largest island located in the Gulf of Thailand, the southernmost area of the country. The island is famous not only for its beautiful beaches regarded as gems awarded by nature, but also for making traditional extract of fish (called fish sauce or nước mắm). Phú Quốc extract of fish is also seen as a “precious gem” created by the local inhabitants with the favor from nature, making up the graceful beauty of the island.
The fish sauce industry in Phú Quốc has a history of over 200 years. In late 19th century, the people on the island of Phú Quốc produced and sold fish sauce to Cambodia and Thailand. Experiencing ups and downs, nowadays, over 80 artisanal barrel houses have upheld the tradition, making Phú Quốc extract of fish the prized staple of Vietnamese cuisine.
Located in an advantageous position, the waters around the island of Phú Quốc are home to many seaweed and plankton, as well as huge resources of anchovies (called cá cơm) from which the finest fish sauce is made. Moreover, the local knowledge and skilful techniques from the selection of raw materials, fish fermentation (termed “chượp”) and juice extraction have been accumulated by the locals and passed down through generations. Transparent extracts of fish with delicious taste are the result of the lysis, hydrolysis and selffermentation of anchovies by enzymes in wooden barrels made from typical trees from the island (as “hộ phát”, “bời lời”…) for a long period of from 12 to 15 months. With those legendary values and special attributes, Phú Quốc extract of fish has become the first Vietnamese product protected as Designation of Origin in the European Union.
a Phu Quoc fish sauce production facility
Phú Quốc extract of fish has a dark red-brown colour, transparent liquid with specific light aroma, distinct lack of fishiness and ammonia odor thanks to being made from fresh fishes and through a long natural fermentation. The extract of fish has delicate special smell and salty, rich and complex flavor, strongly sweet with naturally fatty taste. Aftertaste is sweet and fat as to natural protein and fish grease. Different nitrogen grades (0N) correspond to the ratio of protein to liquid: the maximum achievable grade of 43gN/litre (called “nước mắm nhĩ” or extra-virgin fish sauce got from the first extraction of liquid) and many commercial varieties falling to the 20gN/litre range (“nước mắm long” diluted from the second or consecutive extractions).
Phú Quốc extract of fish is made from anchovies (stolephorus) belonging to the Engraulidae family which are caught in the territorial waters of the Vietnamese provinces of Kien Giang and Ca Mau. The whole process of fermentation, extraction, mingling and bottling is completely done within the Phú Quốc island.