Vietnamese fermented food – a specialty of Chau Doc
Chau Doc (An Giang province) is famous for not only beautiful sights but also specialty foods. Chau Doc is considered as a paradise of “Mam”. Different kinds of delicious “Mam” originated in Chau Doc. “Mam” are everywhere in this town from markets to food stalls. These foods are favorite things for tourists to buy on their trip to the town.
Mother Nature gives Chau Doc lots of fresh fishes, crabs, and vegetables. Every year, during the wet season, rising water levels upstream in the Mekong River. Freshwater animals come with the floods so that local people could not eat all of them at the same time. They find a way to save them for a long time – making fermented foods from them. That may be the reason why “Mam” has become popular in Chau Doc and Mekong Delta. There are hundreds of kinds of Chau Doc “Mam”, Vietnamese people name “Mam” for their main ingredients. Mam ca loc (Fermented snakehead), Mam ca com (Fermented anchovy), Mam ca linh (Fermented siamese mud carp), Mam ruot (Fermented fish guts), Mam thai (Fermented sliced snakehead and shredded green papaya), Mam ba khia (Fermented Sesarma mederi), Dua mam (Fermented baby melon) are the most favorite “Mam”.
Made by experienced local cooks with traditional recipes, the taste of Chau Doc fermented foods is always perfect, please hardest dinners. The process of making “Mam” takes many steps and time. Secret recipes have been passed through generations. Followings are steps making Fermented fish:
- Choose freshest fishes;
- Removing guts, washing fishes, marinating fishes with unrefined salt, saving them in a jar for 30 days, washing them again by water;
- Marinating fishes with “Thinh” – ground toasted rice and put into the jar with high quality fish sauce. After 60-90 days, the fishes turn red, transparent and smelling;
- Lastly, mixing “Mam” with sweet and creamy palm sugar (a specialty of An Giang). The Fermented fish is ready after 3-5 days.
Mekong Delta people can eat Chau Doc most of the fermented foods without cooking. They usually mix”Mam” with vegetables, spices to make “Mam” more delicious. For example, Vietnamese people love to wrap Mam thai, rice noodles, herbs and vegetables in rice paper and eat. They eat Mam ba khia with steamed rice and Stewed pumpkin with coconut milk. Or they mix this “Mam” with dried shrimp, garlic, chili, deep-fried pork fat, shredded green papaya, tomato wedges and fish sauce to make a salad. This kind of salad is topped with peanuts and served with cabbage.
They are also main ingredients to cook a lot of delicious dishes. Mekong Delta people usually braise Fermented fishes with pork, vegetable. Fermented fish is the key ingredient of Bun mam (Vietnamese noodle soups with fermented fish paste) – a specialty of Mekong Delta. Steamed egg with fermented fish paste is also an authentic dish from “Mam”.
Tender and chewy Mam ca loc (Fermented snakehead) – the most expensive “Mam”
Smelling and flavorful Mam ca linh (Fermented siamese mud carp) has a lot of bone
Mam ca com (Fermented anchovy) is the ingredient to make Mam nem – a special sauce in Vietnamese cuisine
Crunchy Mam thai (Fermented sliced snakehead and shredded green papaya)
Mam ba khia (Fermented Sesarma mederi)
Coming to Chau Doc, it’s a big chance to visit local markets which are full of “Mam” and enjoy delicious dishes from “Mam”. Vietnamese fermented food may be strange to foreign tourists. These foods can drive foreigners away from their smell. However, foreigners who like to eat raw “Mam” and dishes from them at the first time can become addicted to “Mam”. Some enjoy Bun mam so much if they don’t know this rice noodle soup consisting of bad smelling fermented fishes.