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Did fish sauce in Vietnam come from ancient Rome via the Silk Road? (scmp.com)
104 points by Thevet 17 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 111 comments



I'd make the case that fish sauces were independently developed by different cultures. I think historians are overly trying to make connections in this case.

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. :)


Throwing shade at SCMP by alleging some kind of anti-Vietnamess bias is unwarranted: it's the best newspaper in Hong Kong and arguably one of the best in all Asia. Alas, one of the many tragedies of Hong Kong's current political situation is that the SCMP is also going to get neutered though :(


Acting like an opposing nation copied (STOLE) something important to its cultural identity is a classic nationalist talking point. Here is the exact same article with Vietnam and fish sauce cut and pasted for Japan and sushi!

https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/food-drink/article/3016361/su...


That seems a bit disingenuous. While I am no expert and cannot verify if the claims in your article are true (though Wikipedia asserts the same), it is clearly different from the OP. Your link is (presumably) rooted in accepted historical fact, while the OP is speculation


Skillful propaganda uses facts to make a conclusion or conjecture that is misleading.

> 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?


> it's from China! [...] 1,700 years ago people preserved fish in rice!

> 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.


You're trying way too hard to spin this fairly typical food article with a mildly provocative title into a propaganda piece. The text literally calls sushi Japanese multiple times, including in the first sentence of the main text. But I guess that doesn't count if we assume no one reads that far and if they do, they probably won't understand it?



China is definitely a Master now in information warfare where it can create pieces like above (with borderline subjectivity involved) and attack right at points of cultural significance of its enemies. Just because it is written in a specific style that seems very conducive for discussion does not mean there is no agenda behind it. Off course depending on the internal degree of skepticism you have your interpretations will vary. China is brilliantly using the West's own style against them in undermining its enemies, so next time there is a conversation involving a few folks in a restaurant, how someone will narrate a story that fish sauce was Roman gift to Vietnam or some other bastardized version of the story. Tbh this is what happened in most of the history.


Well, copying is not stealing.


This sushi article is an example of SCMP smearing history.

> 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.


Do you have anything to back up your claims or is it just that you'd prefer China not to be involved? Because I've found multiple sources backing up the claim that China was in fact involved.

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.


I clarify my point about sushi going through China. In the Takamiya's paper, one of the links above, the author discussed the Ocean Road hypothesis. I agree with this hypothesis. It'd be difficult for the food culture to propagate through land. It'd have to pass Northern China which is not much of a rice culture. Japan likely traded with Southern China and South East Asia through sea routes.

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.


It has already been neutered since Jack Ma bought it a couple years ago. Have you read their editorials lately?


I share you general thoughts on this being a stretch and feeling somewhat euro-centric. The article author, fwiw, is "a Rome-based freelance reporter".


I'd make the case that fish sauces were independently developed by different cultures.

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.


> If there's any link between Vietnam and Rome, we'd have found traces of them along the Silk Road or maritime routes.

Actually, ancient Greek and Roman artifacts have been discovered at Óc Eo in the Mekong Delta.


And really as far as I could tell only the title lead people to believe otherwise. The first statement from an actual researcher says the jury is out. So it's pretty honest, clickbait has unfortunately become part of the internet.


I want to point out that "mam" does not mean sauce. Nouc means water and is applied to water-type liquids, including fish sauce. Mam means salted fish. It's salted fish water.

Mam does not mean sauce.


To be truly pedantic, "mam" means more "salted thing" than "salted fish". There are "mắm nhum" or squid mam that has nothing to do with fish. And it is overloaded in any case. Asking for "mam" to go with your main dish means asking for a mam-based sauce.

Mam does mean sauce, frequently.


For sauce though you'd probably say "nước chấm", of which "nước mắm" is a subset of. All mắms are chấms but not all chấms are mắms.


> Fish sauce is very simple

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.


So is smelly or mouldy french cheese. I think a lot of fermented products are basically preservation techniques gone sideways.

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.


> I think a lot of fermented products are basically preservation techniques gone sideways.

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.


>I'm not so sure. Rotten fish is extremely gross. The notion that it's not when fermented in salt is not entirely obvious.

It is easily discoverable, since people used salt to preserve fish (and other food) all the time in those times...


You should've read my next sentence.


Had read it, you implied that it might not have been "commonly available" in Asia, which makes no sense. So I noted that people do it all the time (and don't mean "romans only").


> The notion that it's not when fermented in salt is not entirely obvious

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.


That's interesting, because from the outside Chinese cooking seems to be barbaric compared to Vietnamese cooking. Chinese cooking styles varies more, but they often prefer barbaric techniques, like overcooking, over saucing, using stark with lots of sugar, soy over fish sauce, ... even in terms of their own style.

Best cooking is definitely from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.


As someone who has spent the last 20 years in the region, I can tell you that there is awesome Chinese food, it's just hard to find outside of China and tends to be heavily regional. I share your affinity for Thai and Vietnamese flavour profiles and their emphasis on freshness, though - actually just made bun bo hue for dinner!


In Thailand, I like to eat Sriracha sauce. The type I get at the supermarket, it's been manufactured in the US by Vietnamese immigrants, and then imported to Thailand, but of course Sriracha (ศรีราชา) is actually a place in Thailand (and the ultimate origin of the sauce, where it was created by _Burmese_ immigrants), so quite how I'm ending up eating American-Thai Burmese sauce via Vietnam in Thailand I'm hoping will give future archeologists food for thought.


Not to mention that the pepper is originally from Mexico


Sriracha sauce in Thailand has nothing in common with the American version beyond name. They don’t remotely taste the same


Similar to how Red Bull in Thailand and Red Bull in the west taste completely different?


Red Bull in Thailand and in the west come from the same origin, Chaleo Yoovidhya, the Red Bull founder.

The west Sriracha was developed by a Vietnam immigrant. You can see his recipe as one of many available Sriracha variants at that time.


Burmese person here.I had no idea and I think most people here have no idea about it as well.

Any source?


Look for Thai Dancer instead of Hui Fong?


Stranger things have happened. Like the viking buddha: http://irisharchaeology.ie/2013/12/the-helgo-treasure-a-viki...

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.


The Silk Road also had Romans and other Mediterranean cultures exporting "sea silk" generated by Mediterranean mussels eastward, even to China [1]. The Greeks, Romans, and Arabs called it "sea wool", which may have caused some Chinese to believe that it came from some sort of "sea sheep" or mermaids.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_silk#China


Reportedly there are villages along the Silk Road in remote western China, where some people are blond haired, blue eyed, descendants of lost (or decided-to-settle) traders or soldiers from centuries ago.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/815449...


The idea of a lost Roman legion in China isn't taken seriously by scholars. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liqian

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tocharians

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarim_mummies


The legion was lost in Scotland.


The legion was lost in Teutoburg Forest

Quintili Vare, legiones redde! (Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!)


the "roman lost legion" thing is probably mythical. https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/no-romans-need...


That lost legion probably is. The ones Publius Quinctilius Varus lost (along with his head) are quite well documented.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Teutoburg_Forest


Ah, interesting. Well, yes, UK Telegraph isn't the most reliable source.


> UK Telegraph isn't the most reliable source.

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.


Taking you very literally I don't know what the most reliable source is, nevermind claim it to be the Telegraph, but I'm not really sure what the implication is, or perhaps rather its reasoning? It's a perfectly respectable paper; (along with The Times) a paper of record.


There's even a village of Jews that was intergrated into society. East Asia likes Jews for whatever reason, even Japan an axis power didn't give them up.



The Tarim mummies. Many centuries ago about 3,800 years ago. I remember seeing one that had a large pointed felt hat like a stereotypical witch would wear.

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.


There were people (Tocharians for one) in Central Asia and Western China who descend from Indo-European migrants from the Black Sea area.


The article makes the assumption that the direction was from Rome to Vietnam and not the other way around, yet provides no hard evidence. The far more plausible explanation is that it developed in both places independently given that both places have plenty of fish and warm weather, and at some point, during the silk road era, the two independent developments linked up.


There's nothing far more plausible about your explanation. If anything, two events occurring is less likely than one, given that plenty of other cultures didn't create fish sauce and yet had an abundance of fish nearby.


The evidence is that (according to another book, The Noma Guide to Fermentation) there is no known mention of fish sauces in south/east Asia before 7th century AD, while in the West it's well documented starting in the 5th century BC. The Noma Guide to Fermentation is however not an history book and is not written by historians, and anyway that's not hard evidence.


What makes that "far more plausible", plenty of warm places that eat lots of fish don't have traditional fish sauces.


Fish sauce to one culture is spoiled salty fish water to another. It's hardly a universal taste. And I'm not biased, I love the stuff.

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.


> Believed to have medicinal properties, garum was used as a disinfectant, eye and ear cleanser, to treat burns and dog bites, and to fight high cholesterol.

Wait, the ancient Romans somehow knew about cholesterol? Um.


The Romans did have some knowledge and understanding of heart disease and apparently at least tried to use various plants and such to enhance cardiac health. I can't find anything about cholesterol specifically, but it's not out of the realm of the possible...


I had the same question; is that supposed to be a euphemism for obesity or something?


Phu Quoc is the most famous place in Vietnam that makes nuoc mam. The first press of aged nuoc mam is highly prized by connoisseurs, but almost impossible to use without first diluting it with water, as it is very salty and pungent. With the right ratio of water, lime juice, and sugar, nuoc mam is the perfect dipping sauce for much of Vietnamese cuisine. Knowing this, you'd be able to guess with good accuracy if a dish had Chinese origin, because the dish would be offered with a soy sauce-based dipping sauce instead.

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.


red boat fish sauce is a relatively accessible brand in America, made in phu quoc (https://redboatfishsauce.com/pages/about)


Ditto. This is my go-to fish sauce. That said, it should be used as a dipping sauce and not for cooking. There are cheaper fish sauce for cooking from Vietnam or Thailand. Just make sure there are only three ingredients used to make the sauce: anchovies, salt, and water. An easy way to tell if a fish sauce is of decent quality is by looking for the degrees number on the front and these three ingredients on the back.


> Just make sure there are only three ingredients used to make the sauce: anchovies, salt, and water

Almost all of the other, especially the cheaper sauces, have additional ingredients. + fructose & hydrolyzed wheat protein for three crabs, for example


I have tried Red Boat, but still prefer Three Crabs. It’s supposed to be lower quality, but I think it tastes better.


Surprised they didn't mention Worcestershire sauce, which has very similar flavor profiles to sauce used in Thai cuisine.

Edit: Worcestershire sauce's flavor comes from fermented fish + tamarind, which also are two major ingredients in Thai/Vietnamese cooking.


that's so, but the legend is "lee and perrins were told to recreate a thing that the governor of bengal's wife had liked when they were in india, thought they failed, let it ferment, then claimed victory", which isn't quite Thailand.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worcestershire_sauce#History


Is it actually fermented fish? I happened to be looking at its ingredients earlier this evening before I saw this post (really! wild evening) and it merely lists 'anchovies'. The top two ingredients are vinegars, which suggests to me the flavour's approximated by pickling (cf. cucumbers, kimchi/sauerkraut/coleslaws, etc.) rather than merely a preservative.


Do you think Worcestershire is particularly close compared to other fish sauces? I don't really but I'm hardly "fluent" in thai cooking.

Fish sauce seems plausibly one of those commonly re-invented things.


It's not very similar. The fish in Worcestershire sauce is mild enough that you might not notice it if you didn't know it was there. It's vinegar + molasses + tamarind + salt + sugar + spices, with the fish just there for added umami taste. Thai fish sauce is only fish + salt + sugar, and it's unmistakably made from fish.


Agree the fish sauce itself is clearly different, but I'm less confident about the flavor profile as a whole. Maybe that's just because of the tamarind though.


I have a Pad Thai recipe that calls for both fish sauce and tamarind paste. Do you think there's some connection?


I am shocked that neither the article nor the discussion mentions that there were second century Roman trade artifacts recovered by French archeologists at Oc Eo[0] on the Mekong delta[1] (ancient Champa[2]; now An Giang, Vietnam). Champa was the major pre-Vietnamese society in Vietnam and Cambodia whose probable regional trading partners essentially correspond to the SEA cultural sphere currently using fish sauce. Apparently Columbus tried to reach it at one point! [3] Asian ancient history is fascinating.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%93c_Eo [1] https://sci-hub.tw/10.2307/3248251 [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champa [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%93c_Eo#Columbus'_search_fo...


I'm surprised the idea of independent discovery is so easily explained away in modern history.

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.


I mean... sure, programming is just putting together 0 + 1 and calling it a day too. I think you're severely downplaying how unlikely it is that this was just "done". It smells like death, so it would be unlikely anyone would necessarily want to eat it in the first place:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S7Bb0Qg-oE


Was the culture maritime? Did the culture have their own practice or nearby examples of fermentation? Is there some specific or difficult part of the process that is unique? Does fish fermentation occur in areas with no ties to Southeast Asia or the Mediterranean? I would want to answer these questions before speculating on any possible links.

[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...


Not sure about Vietnam but Southern China is very big on fermentation, pickling, and salting and doing that to most every food: fish, vegetables, eggs, etc... It’s quite possible it came from Rome but the basic techniques are deeply embedded in the culture. I suspect that it is the case for most cultures in that region of the world.


This video covers how you can make garum using a modernized version of a surviving recipe from the Geoponica: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S7Bb0Qg-oE


This is off topic, but during my obsession with the discovery of the Everest route in 1921, I was fascinated to learn that at that time there were Tibetan and Nepalese (or just one sorry, need to fact check) that had elements of Greek culture embedded in their leadership roles, holding a conch and a trident, on a mountain! So neat that these cultural quirks could last so long, assuming it really is a relic of some cultural sharing.


They're very similar, and when I cooked Ancient Roman recipes I used Thai fish sauce (nam pla, Squid Brand) in place of liquamen (garum). Nuoc mam is much the same thing as nam pla. So is colatura, which is still made in Italy.

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.


As some of the skeptics in the article say, we can't be sure there's no link, but there doesn't need to be a link to explain having similar sauces in the two regions. If you have fish, salt, sun and a lack of refrigeration, you are going to have fermented fish soon enough.


It does seem like it may be a case of culinary convergent evolution: I'd wager that anything involving fermentation/brewing/pickling/salt preservation is likely to be discovered multiple times by its nature.


Good thing patents are such a recent invention.


Patents are only valid for at most 20 years. On historic timescales, that's nothing.


And on current time tables that can be everything.


Sure, today, it means a lot that e.g. e-ink screen technology is patented. But once the patents run out there will likely be a cambrian explosion. In the 2040s, who will care about it? Do we care which semiconductor company in SV had a tiny edge over another company 50 years ago? There is so much acquisition, merging and bankruptcy going on that in 200 years, the landscape will be different. Check how many companies managed to stay in the DJIA since its founding in 1896.


This is nothing but speculation, but every major evolution to something having a forced 20 year gap before the next major evolution can be made seems like it would have big effects on the long term too.

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.


Just as there are bagpipes in Scotland and Arabia doesn't mean they did or did not have cultural exchange. It might only mean they both had goats, curiosity, lots of time on their hands, and a semi-musical inclination.


Bagpipes are also present in between, in Eastern Europe.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kozio%C5%82_(bagpipe)



> It might only mean they both had goats,

Goats themselves, however, are absolutely something they got by trade and exchange. All three known domestication events happened in the middle east.


Then it's likely word of the instruments went along with them!

People tend to love to share knowledge and meat.


Weren't horses domesticated in Asia?


Yeah, this is a Betteridge's Law kind of case. I mean, there's zero evidence for this trade happening and no reason at all to believe it wasn't simultaneously invented. So... no. It wasn't. It plausibly could have been, but there's no evidence. So no.


I'm confused. They don't seem to be talking about prahok or mam nem.

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.


Samurai and Samariter, Magadan and Maria Magdalena, are they related as well?


It was just fish when they started the shipment, rotted on the way. Hey why not eat it anyway?


It is kind of strange to link it with Rome over China. Occam's razor and all that.

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.


There are surviving garum recipes from the Geoponica - see page 329 here: https://archive.org/details/Geoponica02


>Nuoc mam

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.


Are you referring to the missing diacritical marks? (nước mắm)

"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"[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_sauce#Vietnam


The whole language is already a romanization. If the diacritics didn't contain useful information, they wouldn't exist. I can understand writing without diacritics when writing informally - even Vietnamese people do that - but in something published I would hope they'd go through the effort of committing to the English or the Vietnamese name. Nuoc mam is neither, it's a placeholder that says "we don't want to sound low-market by saying 'Vietnamese fish sauce', but we also don't care about being correct". It's not like Chinese characters, where it needs to be romanized for English speakers to recognise it: if we see nước mắm in sequential sentences, we'll know it's talking about the same thing even if we don't remember the diacritics.

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.


The additional information contained in the diacritics is essentially useless to English speakers: they certainly aren't going to get the tones right and the dipthong "ướ" has no equivalent sound in English. Vietnamese speakers themselves frequently elide diacritics as you point out, so you aren't really hurting anyone's comprehension.

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.


> The additional information contained in the diacritics is essentially useless to English speakers

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.


I guess I’ll be calling it the Uait Aus in Uoscinton because in my language “sh” is unreadable and contains no extra information.

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.”


I mean, that's normal. "Germany" isn't what the so-called "Germans" call their country. And if we're being pedantic, referring to the country as "Vietnam" is absolutely wrong. It's "Việt Nam".

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.


I think it's a bit disingenuous to compare the Hangul of kimchi to the writing of nước mắm when Vietnamese is already in latin script. Of course the diacritics aren't going to convey much knowledge to non-speakers besides "this is not pronounced how you're probably going to think it's pronounced" but in a world of Unicode it doesn't seem like it requires much extra effort. Maybe I can relate because everytime I look at my ID, I don't see my name, just a bastardization of it.

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.


Nobody cares when "Hanoi" or "pho" is written without proper tones marked. Strange to draw the line here. It's not even a disregard of another language or culture. It's a word that's been assimilated into another language.

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.


I have a Resume, not a Résumé. No biggie.


Nước chấm literally means "dipping sauce" and so it includes all kinds of sauces used for dipping. Each dish usually accompanies a specific flavor of dipping sauce, and there can be heated debates as to which dipping sauce is the most appropriate for a particular dish. That said, nước chấm at any restaurant is generically understood to be the house flavor of nước mắm dipping sauce, which is essentially their take on the ratio of nước mắm, water, lime juice/vinegar/pineapple juice, sugar, and chili. As you travel from North to South, this dipping sauce becomes sweeter (with an exception for the Huế area, where you'd find even their basic level of spiciness scorching hot if you're not used to eating spicy food).


I love these kinds of pedantic insistence. On the one hand we have to write things exactly as their source origin orthography, but if it’s English, who cares, just mangle it cuz we know what you mean.

Let people write the way they want, no matter who they are, as long as point gets accross.




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