Fish sauce is very simple. You only need two ingredients: fish and salt. Any cultures living near an ocean can independently develop some version of fish sauce.
If there's any link between Vietnam and Rome, we'd have found traces of them along the Silk Road or maritime routes.
In Vietnam, besides fish sauce, there are other sauces "mam" made from different fishes and seafoods. Vietnamese people may have developed these "mam" before they developed the current fish sauce. Their fish sauce may have come from other "mam" than Rome.
Side note: The article appears on South China Morning Post. China often sees Vietnam as barbaric, inferior. Maybe, they couldn't see how Vietnamese could invent such a good sauce. :)
> Sushi is not from Japan
Some people will stop reading and share it on Facebook here
> Sushi reached China, then Japan from its origins along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, and was later exported to the US and the rest of the world
Actually, it's from China!
Now even more people will stop reading and share it on Facebook
> The dish started out as fermented whole fish preserved with inedible salted rice
Wait, that doesn't sound like sushi to me
> However, the sushi we know today tastes and looks very different to how it did centuries ago. First of all, the rice in the original “sushi” was not intended to be eaten. Mixed with salt, it was used to preserve the fish and then thrown out.
Three paragraphs in and below the fold, the article itself admits that the dish being discussed isn't sushi. We're talking about "sushi" here!
> And sushi’s origins aren’t even Japanese, says Nobu Hong Kong executive sushi chef Kazunari Araki, who has more than 20 years of sushi-making experience.
"origins". Also, it's a Japanese guy saying it. Even Japanese ADMIT sushi is not Japanese!
> The combination of rice and fish, he explains, originated in the third century along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, where countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are now situated.
1,700 years ago people preserved fish in rice!
> By the 12th century, this method of fermenting fish had travelled from the Mekong to China, and then on to Japan, where it was called narezushi. However, in the 16th century, in the Edo period, Araki says, vinegar replaced salt in the preservation process, which was a major step forward in the development of sushi. It also gave birth to the name sushi – which translates to “vinegared rice”.
I'm pretty sure this means the dish that we call sushi now is Japanese. Do you think most people will have read this far down into the article?
The rest of the article is about how sushi is actually American. According to this article, sushi is from South East Asia, Chinese, and America! Does that sound like a reasonable conclusion to you?
> The rest of the article is about how sushi is actually American. According to this article, sushi is from South East Asia, Chinese, and America! Does that sound like a reasonable conclusion to you?
No, it sounds like an absurd misrepresentation of an interesting article on the history and origins of sushi from a veteran Japanese chef that, unless you're genuinely as ignorant as you're making yourself look with this post, you can't possibly be serious about.
> By the 12th century, this method of fermenting fish had travelled from the Mekong to China, and then on to Japan, where it was called narezushi.
It's a substantial claim that fermented fish and rice travelled through China to Japan. Food travels very slowly. If it travelled by land, it'll morphed with local ingredients. South China has more rice based dish. North China has less rice and more wheat in their cuisines. If fermented fish and rice travelled that far through land. It'll leave lots of traces in Chinese cuisines.
It's likely that Japanese got fermented fish and rice directly from South East Asia, without going through China. Japan has been trading with SE Asia region for centuries. Hội An is a city port in Vietnam with Japanese remnants.
Fish sauce travelled from Rome to Vietnam, through China.
Sushi travelled from SE Asia to Japan, through China.
This book (https://books.google.com/books?id=iyQps4i41JoC&pg=PA344&redi...) mentions Southern China as one of the origins of narezushi.
This one (https://www.businessinsider.com/the-complete-history-of-sush...) goes even further by specifically talking of Southern China as the origin and suggests that the influence of northern invaders explains why you won't find much signs of it in modern China.
This documentary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31jXkTLbYFE&feature=youtu.be...) links sushi to the introduction of rice cultivation to Japan. Through China.
And apparently (https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10125/17154/...) when it comes to the arrival of rice to Japan, it's not a question of whether or not it came through China, but which of the three possible routes it took.
Rice arrived to Japan thousands of years ago. At the time, Southern China is not part of present day China. The Baiyue people were good naval navigators. They probably traded with Japan and South East Asia. Saying sushi got to Japan through China is misleading. People would think that sushi travelled through China land to Japan.
You can but you'd be... making a wild guess basically.
Fish sauce is very simple. You only need two ingredients: fish and salt.
And most likely... skimming the rest of the article, which does not claim that the Asian societies would not have invented the "some version of fish sauce" on their own.
What the article bases its case on is the invention of a specific kind of fish sauce:
Acclaimed chef Peter Cuong Franklin, owner of Anan Restaurant and Nhau Nhau Bar in Ho Chi Minh City, believes nuoc mam “may trace its origin back to garum” given that the Vietnamese version is also made by interleaving layers of anchovies with sea salt and letting it ferment in wood or ceramic containers for about 12 months.
It's the specificity of the invention which leads merit to the idea -- along with linguistic cues -- that it may have been imported (or perhaps hybridized with an imported invention).
Not a proven case of course - but worth taking seriously.
Actually, ancient Greek and Roman artifacts have been discovered at Óc Eo in the Mekong Delta.
Mam does not mean sauce.
Mam does mean sauce, frequently.
I'm not so sure. Rotten fish is extremely gross. The notion that it's not when fermented in salt is not entirely obvious. Having said that, it is definitely obvious as a byproduct of fish preservation. If people start producing dried salted fish, someone is bound to notice that the juice is actually tasty. I wonder how commonly available sea salt was in East Asia compared to the Mediterranean. It is saltier and has a much drier climate and thus producing lots of salt is easier.
Smells funny, looks funny but doesn't make you sick when you eat it, you don't just throw food away when it is scarce. And after some time you develop a taste for it.
My theory also :) Given historical harsh winters in Europe you're gonna eat whatever there is in the middle of a winter, spoiled or not. Turned out some of that spoiled stuff is quite good.
It is easily discoverable, since people used salt to preserve fish (and other food) all the time in those times...
I find it somewhat astounding when people equate "it's not entirely obvious (to me / a modern individual) to "it's unlikely to be discoverable by one or more of millions of individuals throughout past generations".
Not only is this something millions of people had lifetimes to potentially discover, working with food & preservation would've been necessarily a much more fundamental part of most people's daily lives in the past than it is now.
Best cooking is definitely from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
The west Sriracha was developed by a Vietnam immigrant. You can see his recipe as one of many available Sriracha variants at that time.
material goods travel farther than the people who made them. And we are increasingly finding that it was the case that ancient and medieval trade routes were generally longer and more robust than we had once believed.
Further west along the silk road from Gansu, the earliest documented inhabitants of Xinjiang were the Tocharians. They had brown, red, or blond hair, spoke two different Indo-European languages (Tocharian A and B), and were Buddhist. They're a more likely source of blond hair in western China.
Quintili Vare, legiones redde! (Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!)
Why not? As far as I am aware it is a legitimate and decent journalistic news source. It might have a political leaning, but for this sort of reporting I don't think it would give their preferred political party and leverage.
Quite remarkable and unusual.
Being blond haired and blue eyed doesn't mean much though since there are some non-European cultures where it exists. Solomon Islands people, and I've known blond Lebanese people, supposedly there are some blond north African people too.
Also, a huge number of cultures have a tradition of eating dried salted fish. Turning that into fish sauce is just dropping those into some water.
Wait, the ancient Romans somehow knew about cholesterol? Um.
P.S. Phu Quoc itself is a lovely place to enjoy the freshest seafood of all varieties on the cheap. Rent a motorbike and you would be able to see most of the island in just a few days.
Almost all of the other, especially the cheaper sauces, have additional ingredients. + fructose & hydrolyzed wheat protein for three crabs, for example
Edit: Worcestershire sauce's flavor comes from fermented fish + tamarind, which also are two major ingredients in Thai/Vietnamese cooking.
Fish sauce seems plausibly one of those commonly re-invented things.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%93c_Eo  https://sci-hub.tw/10.2307/3248251  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champa  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%93c_Eo#Columbus'_search_fo...
The recipe calls for fish + salt left for a period of time. This could have been done by someone simply trying to preserve fish, not necessarily make a sauce.
[Disclaimer] I did just this sort of thing researching the possible gold links between Schliemann's Troy and the Royal Graves at Ur as a student...
Though there was indirect contact with China, from where they obtained silk, and India, from where they obtained pepper, I'm unaware of any direct contact between Ancient Rome and South East Asia, and I'm skeptical the recipe somehow made its way as far as Vietnam and Thailand. I think it's more likely they arrived at the same recipe independently.
Here's the production method for liquamen. It was done on an industrial scale and listed as an ingredient in the recipes of Apicius:
From A Taste of Ancient Rome, p. 27:
Ancient sources contain countless recipes for the preparation of garum, also known as muria or liquamen. The most complete is provided by Gargilius Martialis, a writer from the third century A.D.
Use fatty fish, for example sardines, and a well-sealed (pitched) container with a 26-35 quart/liter capacity. Add dried aromatic herbs possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others making a layer on the bottom of the container; then put down a layer of fish (if small leave them whole, if large use pieces); and over this add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat these three layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for twenty days. After that time it becomes a liquid (garum).
-- Gargilius Martialis, De medicina et de virtute herbarum
From "Geoponica" (20.46.1-6), as cited by Robert I. Curtis, Garum and Salsamenta: Production and Commerce in Materia Medica (New York: E. J. Brill, 1991):
The so-called liquamen is made in this manner: the intestines of fish are thrown into a vessel and salted. Small fish, either the best smelt, or small mullet, or sprats, or wolffish, or whatever is deemed to be small, are all salted together and, shaken frequently, are fermented in the sun.
After it has been reduced in the heat, garum is obtained from it in this way: a large, strong basket is placed into the vessel of the aforementioned fish, and the garum streams into the basket. In this way the so-called liquamen is strained through the basket when it is taken up. The remaining refuse is alex.
The Bithynians prepare it in this manner: It is best if you take small or large sprats, but if not, wolffish, or horse-mackerel, or mackerel, or even alica, and a mixture of all, and throw these into a baker's kneading trough, in which the are accustomed to knead meal. Tossing into the modius of fish two Italian sextarii of salt, mix up thoroughly in order to strengthen it with salt. After leaving it alone for one night throw it into a vessel and place it without a lid in the sun for two or three months, agitating it with a shaft at intervals. Next take it, cover it, and store it away.
Some add to one sextarius of fish, two sextarii of old wine.
Next, if you wish to use the garum immediately, that is to say not ferment it in the sun, but to boil it, you do it this way. When the brine has been tested, so that an egg having been thrown in floats (if it sinks, it is not sufficiently salt), and throwing the fish into the brine in a newly-made earthenware pot and adding in some oregano, you place it on a sufficient fire until it is boiled, that is until it begins to reduce a little. Some throw in boiled-down must. Next, throwing the cooled liquid into a filter you toss it a second, and a third time through the filter until it turns out clear. After having covered it, store it away.
The best garum, the so-called haimation, is made in this way: the intestines of tunny along with the gills, juice and blood are taken and sufficient salt is sprinkled on. After having left it alone in the vessel for two months at most, pierce the vessel and the garum, called haimation, is withdrawn.
I do think software engineers probably have a uniquely cynical view on patents though - software patents do tend to be more spurious and ridiculous than in other industries.
Goats themselves, however, are absolutely something they got by trade and exchange. All three known domestication events happened in the middle east.
People tend to love to share knowledge and meat.
These seem far more likely to be imported or have a complex history since they are fking disgusting but very popular. Unlike fish sauce which seems pretty meh.
I remember eating dog in a restaurant in Vietnam, which is very expensive and mostly done for health occasionally by locals and they had it with what I think was mam nem because it's a special meal and I had to check if there was an open sewer, I hoped up and went to the window and searched the room to find the smell.
But, I thought the production and end product of garum were not known today? We know how much Romans loved it, but I thought nobody knew exactly how it was made or its texture, etc.
One thing that stuck out to me:
> the flavoursome dip was the second most expensive liquid on the market after perfumes, and is said to have had an unexpectedly pleasant smell. It developed a nasty smell only after it had become foul
As much as I love eating things flavored with fish sauce, its smell is... rank. It smells terrible, but it tastes great.
If you're going to ignore the way it's actually spelled, why not just use the translation anyway? The way English speakers (like me) treat other countries' alphabets is bizarre.
"Nuoc mam" is much less ambiguous than using "fish sauce", so using the translation seems like a lot of precision is lost. Plus, "nuoc mam" is the standard romanization of "nước mắm", which is admittedly difficult to type on QWERTY keyboards + en-* locales.
If you're talking about "nước chấm", as far as I know that is a class of dipping sauces that include things besides just "nước mắm".
These will be things from SMCP's style guide and will be shared by many other publications, because it's the way most of us treat other languages. There's a similar treatement of name order. I think the style shows disregard for the languages and cultures, so I don't like it.
Diacritics are pretty rare in English publications for the most part: most drop diacritics even off of the English words that technically should have them: cliché, crêpe, façade, piñata, protégé, résumé, risqué... Even the New Yorker, with its famously persnickety style guide, drops the tone diacritics from Vietnamese dish names: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/27/van-das-tour-o...
Outside of this, I think the point about "nuoc mam" being the standard (complete) romanization still stands: it is common enough that some common English dictionaries have added it (eg https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nuoc%20mam and https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/nuoc-ma...). This is quite a common occurrence in languages which use the Latin alphabet + additional letters: most speakers of German are used to seeing "ß" become "ss" in English publications. I can see why you interpret this as a disregard for other languages, but people are more likely to try to say these words if they think the word is easily pronounceable. And using the word makes the foods, places, names, etc of other cultures more likely to be shared and become a part of the common parlance; I'd go so far as to say that having an anglicized form of a name means that it is much more likely to become a common thing in the Anglophone world, which breeds greater appreciation of other cultures.
This is a plausible sounding line of thought but English-language sources are rarely consistent about it. In particular, Western European languages, especially French, often get to keep their accents even though they are meaningless to English speakers.
Compare, for instance, how many places will write "Côte de bœuf" but "nuoc mam". German, Spanish, Portugese, and Swedish are other languages where I often see "weird letters" and diacritics left in, even in English-language publications that don't do the same favors for other languages.
That said, it is possible that SCMP is consistent about this so I don't want to call them out as hypocritical without checking.
Some words have been imported and adapted into English in the past, but I doubt that nước mắm is one of them.
I‘d also say that news outlets should be held to a higher standard than “conversational language.”
But of course, this is all BS. Languages constantly borrow new words. 20 years ago, nobody knew what "pho" or "banh mi" were, but now we all do. We know what it means so much that we leave off the diacritics entirely and nobody is confused. Those diacritics cannot be represented within the framework of English. They're components of a completely different language.
Is it unreasonable that English speakers today will borrow the word "nuoc mam" and use it in normal English conversation? I've already been seeing it on recipe sites for a couple years now. It's about as English as kimchi and ramen. Nobody ever has or ever will look up the hangul or katakana to write about those in an English article, despite them being easy to remember. "nước mắm" is a foreign word written in its language. "Nuoc mam" is the thoroughly transliterated, romanized equivalent. This phenomenon exists in every language on earth that has ever come in contact with another culture. There isn't a higher standard to hold the author to--they're writing how humans do.
It should also be noted that most Vietnamese people don't really care about texting without diacritics. Most text messages are written without diacritics in order to minimize the payload size. It's just about perception when you see foreign western dishes with their diacritics like crème brûlée but see foreign eastern dishes without theirs.
English has plenty of French loanwords, and for the most part, we drop the accent marks. Not because of disrespect for the French, but because they're simply extraneous in our language. Nobody is looking up the word every single time they write it. They've become accepted as having a distinct meaning within of our language, just like nuoc mam.
Let people write the way they want, no matter who they are, as long as point gets accross.