Monday, 25 June 2007
Thoughts on Vietnamese food. Memories of Saigon. Vietnam
Ha Thanh, another of my favourite singers from long ago. Thanks to modern technology I now have more than five hours of cherished music on CDs.
Nuoc mam. The first word, 'nuoc' is a prefix for all things liquid. So this means the liquid form of 'mam' a fermented fish paste. You like it or you don't. If you don't you might as well not go to Vietnam. It is the basis of practically all Vietnamese cooking. No household is without it. Your first encounter might be with the smell of the manufacturing process. Particularly well known for it was the town of Phan Thiet with which I was very familiar. The best reputedly came from the island of Phu Quoc. There was a top quality used at table and a lesser quality used in cooking.
I liked it so had no problem. Of course another staple was fish. I've also never eaten so many shrimps in all their sizes and forms. There was very little meat, but the pork and chicken had a much better flavour than I find in supermarkets today. Many families would keep a pig to feed their waste to and we often bought a live chicken and stuffed it up before slaughtering it to eat.