Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Phu Quoc is a Vietnamese island off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s known for white-sand beaches and resorts, most of which are along the palm-lined southwest coast. More than half of the island is part of Phu Quoc National Park, which features mountains, dense tropical jungle, hiking trails and wildlife.
Phu Quoc is famous for its two traditional products: fish sauce and black pepper. The rich fishing grounds offshore provides the anchovy catch from which the prized sauce is made. As widely agreed among the Vietnamese people, the best fish sauce comes from Phu Quoc.
The Vietnamese take their fish sauce very seriously. A staple of the country’s cuisine, fish sauce is to Vietnam what olive oil is to Italy. The subtly sweet amber-coloured anchovy extract should be as potently fragrant as it is savory. The versatile sauce is used in many facets of Vietnamese cooking, it can be used as a dipping sauce poured straight from the bottle or diluted with water, sugar and vinegar for a sweet and sour flavoured dip, perfect for spring rolls.
Much of what makes Phu Quoc fish sauce so good has to do with the island’s abundance of ingredients. Phu Quoc shores are teeming with plankton, the natural dietary resource of the region’s anchovy population. These small fish, of which Phu Quoc fish sauce is made of, come in droves to feed on the smaller plankton, thus making the island the perfect location for producing fish sauce using this special variety of fish.
Traditional Phu Quoc fish sauce has been made solely out of fermented anchovies, salt, and water for over 200 years. The waters around The island are rich in seaweed and plankton which provide food for the anchovy population. However, it only since the late 1950s that the product has been recognized outside of its home island, reaching its zenith of popularity between 1965 and 1975. With increasing government subsidies of many industries in the period from 1975 to 1985, the local fish sauce craft lost market share to larger competitors, but in recent years, the popularity of the authentic Phu Quoc product has been rebounding. In 2012, Phu Quoc fish sauce was granted a European Union Protected Designation of Origin status.