The Phu Quoc fish sauce

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Phu Quoc fish sauce

Phu Quoc fish sauce is a specific variety of fish sauce produced on Phu Quoc island in southwest Vietnam. Since 2001, the Industrial Property Department of the government of Vietnam has the name “Phu Quoc Fish Sauce” as a trademark, and only registered manufacturers are allowed to use the name in Vietnam.

Phu Quoc fish sauce- The registered trademark
Phu Quoc fish sauce- The registered trademark

The waters around Phu Quoc island are rich in seaweed and plankton which provide food for the anchovy population. This resource has been used in the production of Phu Quoc fish sauce for over 200 years. 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.
Currently, Phu Quoc fish sauce production has reached 8 million liters / year.

Production

Phu Quoc fish sauce is made from anchovies that have been fermented in brine in large barrels measuring 1.5 to 3 metres (4.9 to 9.8 ft) in diameter and 2 to 4 metres (6.6 to 13 ft) in height, containing 7 to 13 tons of product. The barrels are made from braided rattan from the local mountains, and can be used for up to 60 years.

Fish sauce factory
Fish sauce factory

While any kind of fish can also be used to make the fish sauce, Phu Quoc sauce is made exclusively from anchovies harvested from waters surrounding the island. During the fishing season (which extends from July to December), fishermen harvest anchovies by net, removing the anchovies from among other fish and items in the nets, and immediately combining them with salt at a 3:1 ratio in water tanks.

Differences

Phu Quoc fish sauce is differentiated by its color, which is due entirely to the ingredients and is not the result of any coloring agents.

Phu Quoc fish sauce
Phu Quoc fish sauce

Development issues

Currently, Phu Quoc fish sauce is facing two problems:

The anchovy population that is the main resource for this product is endangered by overfishing and other environmental degradation.

Anchovies to make fish sauce
Anchovies to make fish sauce

The perceived quality of the product has been marred by lesser products using the name prior to the establishment of the trademark protection. Trademark protection has been denied in some foreign countries due to overuse of the term by other manufacturers prior to the Phu Quoc producers’ efforts to obtain trademark protection.