Vietnamese fish sauce: an important dish in culinary

Not only is the spice helping to increase the value of the dishes, but Vietnamese fish sauce is also delicious and and rich in nutrients.

In the meals of Vietnamese people, there is always have a dish of fish sauce to make the food tastier, the family more cohesive. Because of that, the fish sauce in Vietnam is also known as the national spirit of cuisine.

Vietnamese fish sauce
Vietnamese fish sauce – Photo: Vietnamdrive

Here are the typical features of fish sauce in Vietnam.

The main ingredients of Vietnamese fish sauce are sea fish and salt.

The sauce producing in Vietnam is a special spice that can be modified in many different ways. It is based on available raw materials such as fish, shrimp, crab … but the most popular is still fish sauce made from sea fish.

Perhaps because living in the hidden nature of the ocean, the fishes in Vietnam bring a delicious, rich taste that is hard to resist when they become the fish sauce.

Although the smell is quite strong, the color is just a pure amber color; but the typical fish sauce of Vietnamese people makes those who enjoy it once remember forever.

The fish sauce has a different taste from North to South Vietnam.

With a rich source of seafood in Vietnam, the local people have many delicious kinds of sauces. Each region has a different way of processing and tasting. The character of Vietnamese cuisine is therefore much more diverse and richer from the north to south of the country.

  • The Northern people often like to use pure fish sauce. If it’s mixed, often less sweet.
  • The South like the favor of the sweet and sour sauce harmoniously.
  • The richest sauce has to mention the ancient capital of Vietnam, Hue Imperial Palaces, where there are more than 30 types of fish sauce with all flavors: salty, sweet, sour, spicy, medium, dark, light.

The delicious and healthy fish sauce comes with daily meals of the Vietnamese.

Along with the trend of delicious and healthy cuisine of the world, in recent years, Vietnamese people have become more aware and careful when choosing fish sauce.

Like vegetables in Vietnam and many processed foods, the good and safe fish sauce must use traditional manual processing methods, organic food to ensure two elements: delicious and healthy ones. Delicious thanks to natural ingredients, healthy by the nutritional value.

The fish sauce is used to add to different kinds of dishes when cooking, and it is a typical dish by itself for the culture of the daily meals in most of the Vietnamese family. Besides, it is considered as a functional food to help nutritional supplements.

In fact, in the fish sauce, there are more than 13 types of amino acids such as valine, methionine, phenylalanine, alanine, isoleucine, and importantly lysine. Lysine helps many young people to eat well, increase metabolism, absorb maximum nutrition and develop height and health.

Vietnamese fish sauce has a different color and taste from traditional and industrial products.

With the development of life, many products come from industrial processes, and the fish sauce is one of them. How can we know the difference between the traditional and industrial fish sauce?

The traditional fish sauce uses two main materials including sea fishes (anchovies are the top choice) and sauce with the ratio 3:1, it means 3 kg of saltwater fish adding with 1 kg of salt. This procession can be a long time, from 3 months to one year. Then, the people extract the sauce from this combination.

The sauce has a dark-yellow color, and the smell is strong and a little fishy. But, when tasting it, the eaters will feel nicer than the industrial fish sauce, the feelings of seafood, a little fat, salty, but bold taste.

Industrial fish sauce is cheap with quite light yellow color. Many companies have good marketing so their sauces can be found at most of the supermarkets in Vietnam, traditional markets and small stores. Its smell is not fishy, but the feeling when using it comes nearly salty taste.

After opening the bottle lid and using it for a while, the color of the traditional fish sauce will be discolored, become darker than the original because no preservatives are used. In the opposite way, the industrial one still has the same color from the beginning of use until finishing it.

The best Vietnamese fish sauce is in Phu Quoc Island and Phan Thiet Province.

Phu Quoc Island has good conditions to produce the best fish sauce in Vietnam. It is because around the island, there is an abundant source of anchovies with the highest quality.

Immediately after catching in the deep sea, anchovy is marinated with pure sea salt to preserve the freshness of the fish. Next, the fish has been brewed in the traditional method of compression for months to become the perfect fish sauce.

Besides, Phan Thiet Province has a long experience to produce a fish sauce with their traditional methods. Also, this place is right facing to the sea, they can get fresh fish from the ocean to use for making fish sauce. Thus, most of the Phan Thiet fish sauces become famous for Vietnamese people.

For us, here are the types of the best Vietnamese fish sauce are to buy and use:

  • Dard Anchovy – Phan Thiet traditional fish sauce (Cá Cơm Than – Nước mắm truyền thống Phan Thiết)
  • Traditional fish sauce South Vietnam – Phan Thiet (Nước mắm truyền thống Nam Việt – Phan Thiết)
  • Thinh Phat Fish Sauce Phu Quoc (Nước mắm Thịnh Phát Phú Quốc)
  • Khai Hoan fish sauce Phu Quoc (Nước mắm Khải Hoàn Phú Quốc)
  • Phung Hung fish sauce Phu Quoc (Nước mắm Phụng Hưng Phú Quốc)

Fish sauce (nuoc mam) is different from nuoc cham (dipping sauce).

As mentioned above, the main ingredients to make the fish sauce are the saltwater fish and salt, creating the typical flavor and taste.

On the other hand, nuoc cham (dipping sauce) is produced by almost salt, water, color, and additional substance.

Therefore, nuoc cham has a light color and taste. Sometimes, nuoc cham is also added a few percent of fish sauce to create tastier.

A simple recipe to prepare Vietnamese fish sauce:

We introduce a simple method to prepare Vietnamese fish sauce for tasting during your meal or with other food.

Please note that we do not show you how to make fish sauce, it is because producing fish sauce in the traditional fish sauce villages is a long procession that can take a few months or one year.

In addition, it is difficult to produce good fish sauce while there are a lot of good products available at a very low price on the markets in Vietnam.

Vietnamese fish sauce recipe
Ingredients to make fish sauce – Photo: Vietnamdrive

Now, we start preparing a small dish of Vietnamese fish sauce with simple steps of our own recipe as below.


  • ½ teaspoon of garlic chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of hot chillis sliced
  • 4 slides of ginger, then chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/3 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons of fish sauce


  1. Put garlic, chili, and ginger in a small dish.
  2. Add lemon juice into the garlic, chili, and ginger. Mix and leave it there, do not touch for 30 minutes. This is a valuable experience which we often use to make our nice fish sauce. After that, use a spoon to mix all of these in the dish.
  3. And, add fish sauce and mix all things together.

All are done to be ready to serve it. The fish sauce dish has a nice yellow color after preparing, not too salty, and all tastes combine together. That is a good sauce!

You may add one or two spoons of water (boil water after cooling down) to make the fish sauce lighter. However, when you add water, the garlic, chili, and ginger go deeper, so the fish sauce dish is not very nice.

Enjoy it!

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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.