Phu Quoc works to popularise fish sauce making trade hinh anh 1

Photo: Tourists visit a fish sauce making establishment on Phu Quoc island (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recognised the trade of making fish sauce on Phu Quoc island in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang as a national intangible cultural heritage in late May, creating a driving force for local residents to maintain and uphold the essence of the traditional craft.

Covering an area of 589.27, Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam with a long coastline. It has long been known as the country's leading fish sauce producer.

Chairwoman of the Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association Ho Kim Lien said Phu Quoc sea is home to a variety of seaweed and plankton that are major feed sources for anchovy - a key ingredient in its fish sauce.

The craft started in Phu Quoc over 200 years ago and has been developing ever since. Local residents catch anchovy and salt them before fermenting the fish in giant wooden barrels.

Such a way of fermentation is a feature of the traditional craft. The older the barrel is, the more durable it becomes and the better the quality of the fish sauce is.

Barrels have a wide upper end and are made from 55 planks of equal size: 2.2m long, 20cm wide, and 6cm thick. The diameter of the upper ends is about 3.2 metres and that of the bottom, some 2.6 metres. The barrels are also strapped with green rattan.

Lien said the sauce is produced in traditional methods, with the recipe being a ratio of three anchovy and one salt, and the fermentation period of from 10 to 15 months. From the first to final extraction, the fish sauce is divided into different grades based on their protein levels. The product has an amber colour and a slight aroma.

Phu Quoc works to popularise fish sauce making trade hinh anh 2

Photo: Phu Quoc traditional fish sauce products (Photo: VNA)

With support from the French Embassy in Hanoi in 1998, the Ministry of Fisheries along with Kien Giang province prepared an application for geographical indication. On June 1, 2001, Phu Quoc fish sauce was the first product in Vietnam to secure such a status.

In July 2013, the EU granted the “Phu Quoc” origin certificate to the Vietnamese fish sauce.

A month later, the Ministry of Industry and Trade handed over the certificate to representatives of the Phu Quoc island district People’s Committee and the Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association and it has now become an attractive local tourism product.

Phu Quoc city is now home to around 100 fish sauce makers, mostly in Duong Dong and An Thoi wards. Between now and 2025, it will strive to produce 12 million litres of fish sauce each year on average.

According to Lien, a major difficulty for the industry is that some consumers cannot identify genuine Phu Quoc traditional fish sauce, leading to unstable prices. There is currently no planning for a Phu Quoc fish sauce craft village, so it has not yet become a tourist destination.

The Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association, founded in October 2000 and with 53 members, will pay attention to developing fish sauce quality to continue promoting its trademark, she said.

Efforts are also exerted to seek UNESCO’s recognition for the product as a world intangible cultural heritage, contributing to improving its brand value and promoting the image of Phu Quoc island city.

Fish sauce is used in every kitchen in Vietnam and has been closely tied to the country's culinary and cultural customs for three centuries. It is considered the soul of Vietnam's cuisine, and used for cooking as a key component or a dipping sauce./.