Sour shrimp sauce
Sour shrimp sauce (mam tom chua) is a well-known speciality of Hue, the country’s former imperial capital. To make it, fresh medium-sized shrimps are cooked until they turn bright red and mixed with other ingredients to create a thick sauce.
With its fusion of the sweet, rich taste of shrimp, pungent spiciness of chillies and galangal, and sourness from fermentation, the sauce is used in daily food along with white rice and slices of boiled pork.
It is also an essential part of a unique Hue treat, the wet-cake roll with sour shrimp sauce, which is frequently sold on streets in the late afternoon.
Sour shrimp sauce sold at Dong Ba Market for VND100,000 ($4.3) per kilogram. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.
This sauce (mam ca ro) is made from a small variety of anchovy that has softer bones and greater savoriness. The fish, after being washed in seawater, are salted in a ratio of six parts fish to one part salt before being left in a large jar for 30 days to ferment.
Galangal, garlic and chillies are then added to create pungency. It is often served with boiled pork slices, sliced cucumber, fresh herbs, and figs.
Small-anchovy sauce served with boiled pork slices. Photo by VnExpress/Thuy Tien.
Hue’s fermented pickles (mam dua) are a favorite in many Hue households for their crunchiness and large variety of flavors ranging from sour and spicy to salty and sweet. They are usually served with white rice.
To create the pickles, the vegetables and fruits are washed, sliced into small pieces and soaked in salted water. They are then dried in the sun before being salted in jars with sugar, chilli powder, and salted fish.
Many different vegetables and fruits can be pickled, including melon and papaya garden eggs. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.
Small-shrimp paste (mam ruoc) is a staple sauce used in many Hue specialities like beef noodles and clam rice.
The paste is made from small varieties of shrimp and has a salty and pungent smell. But after fermentation, it becomes a savory, fragrant paste that is used every day in Hue households.
Tourists can buy Hue’s salted specialities at Dong Ba Market or some specialty shops. Some renowned brands are Ms Ri and Ms Hue that sell 300- and 500-gram packs for VND70,000 – 100,000 ($3 – 4.3).
Hue was home to the Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam’s last royal family (1802-1945). The town owns many UNESCO-recognized heritage sites.