Thứ Tư, Tháng Sáu 12, 2024
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Traditional fish sauce makers in Vietnam refuse to take the modern bait (Part II)

Traditional fish sauce makers in Vietnam refuse to take the modern bait (Part I)

[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]

The big fish – Con cá lớn

It was inevitable that such a staple commodity lured in the big fish.

 

Since the 2000s, many giant firms, locals and multinationals, hopped on the nuoc mam bandwagon by introducing their own version of the sauce. Unilever, the British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company, Vietnam’s Masan Group and food firm Acecook Vietnam were among the pioneers. The newest comer is Nestlé Vietnam, which unveiled in July 2018 a fish sauce cousin to its locally popular Maggi soy sauce.

 

A woman walks near bottles of Nam Ngu fish sauce, produced by Masan Group, at a supermarket in Hanoi on December 26, 2015. – Một người phụ nữ đi bộ gần những chai nước mắm Nam Ngư, do tập đoàn Masan sản xuất, tại một siêu thị ở Hà Nội vào ngày 26/12/2015.

Industrial product – Sản phẩm công nghiệp

The products introduced by the big companies has been dubbed “industrial fish sauce” or “dipping sauce” to distinguish them from the traditionally made sauce. The industrial fish sauce is a fusion of fish sauce, water, salt and additives such as flavoring, preservatives and food coloring. Hence this mixture is less salty, has a sweeter key taste, lighter color, and is less pungent.

 

With the waters getting more crowded, many traditional nuoc mam makers found themselves in a fierce and “imbalanced” competition, as Thanh Loi described it, with their market share narrowing.

 

Tellingly, around 70 percent of fish sauce consumption in the country, nearly 190 million liters, has been taken over by the industrial fish sauce, notably that of Masan, while around 2,800 traditional nuoc mam making villages and establishments scattered along the country’s coastline share the remaining 30 percent, or around 60 million liters, according to the Ho Chi Minh City Food Association.

 

“The industrial products seem to suit the modern lifestyle better,” said Vo Van Dai, a traditional fish sauce maker in Van Phan, central Nghe An Province.

 

“People don’t have to mix it with vinegar and sugar and water to make it a dipping sauce, like in the old days. They just pour it out and serve. It’s more convenient.”

 

It’s also cheaper. A traditional fish sauce bottle is usually one or two dollars more expensive than the industrial version, given the high input and production costs as well as low productivity.

 

A woman finishes packing traditionally-made fish sauce bottles in a facility in Van Phan, Nghe An Province. – Một người phụ nữ hoàn thành việc đóng gói các chai nước mắm truyền thống trong một cơ sở ở Văn Phấn, tỉnh Nghệ An.

Still, nuoc mam makers like Dai and Khuong like to believe theirs is the more authentic product with higher salt content and nitrogen levels, a result of preservation by salting. The latter ingredient indicates grams of nitrogen per liter, so the higher the number, greater the protein content, and the stronger and more complex and piquant its taste.

 

Unfortunately, authenticity and potency have not helped the fish sauce makers in the market. In fact it was once used against them.

 

In 2016, a vague and misleading survey released by Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association (Vinastas) claimed nearly 70 percent of the 150 samples of traditional fish sauce taken from the domestic market had excessive levels of arsenic.

 

Almost immediately, the announcement triggered a widespread food scare across the country.

 

The health ministry quickly dismissed the finding, saying it failed to differentiate between highly toxic inorganic arsenic and safe-for-consumption organic variety found commonly in seafood.

 

Furthermore, the Vinastas study was neither independent nor objective, as it was sponsored by a major communication and advertising firm in Hanoi.

 

However, traditional fish sauce making and related industries had already suffered a consumer boycott.

 

“We had to stall our production, and so did many like us, from the north to the south, because few people dared buy from us,” said Dai, recalling “the two week nightmare”.

 

The crisis also unsettled some related industries, including fishing and seafood exports, and prompted outraged traditional fish sauce makers and associations, in a rare move, to unite and demand that the government “take proper actions” to ensure such dirty tricks do not happen again.

 

The “ubiquitous nuoc mam” is an indispensable sidekick of bun cha, or Vietnamese grilled pork vermicelli. – Nước mắm là món ăn phổ biến ở khắp mọi nơi và là một món phụ không thể thiếu của món bún chả, hay bún heo nướng Việt Nam.

Despite this, thousands of traditional fish sauce makers are still struggling as their product keeps losing ground in the market.

 

Dai and Khuong are among the few who are proactively responding to the new challenges.

 

Khuong, with the support of rural development agencies, has adapted a closed/sealed fish sauce manufacturing system using solar energy to stew the brew.

 

The new technology has helped her reduce production costs and increase productivity, and overcome hygiene concerns usually associated with small facilities like hers. The longtime fish sauce maker is trying to keep her business running and providing a livelihood for over 40 workers, mostly women, keeping a legacy alive at the same time.

 

Meanwhile, Dai is working with other neighboring fish sauce makers to register Van Phan as a place of origin, like their peers on Phu Quoc Island who have established a brand with international renown.

 

In other words, Dai and friends are uniting to recover the ground lost and put Van Phan fish sauce back on the map. They are also eyeing the possibility of exporting their product, starting with Japan.

 

Asked why they don’t consider doing the same thing as their industrial competitors, and produce sauce with the same lighter and sweeter taste, both Dai and Khuong dismissed the possibility outright.

 

Dai asserted: “I sell nuoc mam, not a mixture.”

 

Source: https://e.vnexpress.net/projects/traditional-fish-sauce-makers-in-vietnam-refuse-to-take-the-modern-bait-3901309/index.html

WORD BANK:

inevitable /ɪˈnev.ɪ.tə.bəl/ [C1] (adj): không thể tránh khỏi

lure in /lʊər/ [C2] (v): lôi kéo

multinational /ˌmʌl.tiˈnæʃ.ən.əl/ (n): công ty đa quốc gia

jump/hope/get/click on the bandwagon /ˈbændˌwæɡ.ən/ [C2] (idiom): nhảy vào một lĩnh vực nào đó đã thành công để hưởng lợi từ đó

fusion /ˈfjuː.ʒən/ (n): sự hợp nhất

flavoring /ˈfleɪ.vər.ɪŋ/ (n): hương liệu

preservative /prɪˈzɜː.və.tɪv/ (n): chất bảo quản

pungent /ˈpʌn.dʒənt/ (adj): hăng

fierce /fɪəs/ [B2] (adj): khốc liệt

tellingly /ˈtel.ɪŋ.li/ (adv): nói một cách dễ hiểu

notable /ˈnəʊ.tə.bəl/ [C1] (adj): đáng chú ý

scatter /ˈskæt.ər/ (v): rải rác

vinegar /ˈvɪn.ɪ.ɡər/ (n): giấm

productivity /ˌprɒd.ʌkˈtɪv.ə.ti/ [C1] (n): năng suất

authentic /ɔːˈθen.tɪk/ [C1] (adj): chân thực

ingredient /ɪnˈɡriː.di.ənt/ [B1] (n): thành phần

piquant /ˈpiː.kənt/ (adj): vị mạnh, cay cay dễ chịu

vague /veɪɡ/ [C1] (adj): mơ hồ

misleading /ˌmɪsˈliː.dɪŋ/ [B2] (adj): sai lệch

excessive /ekˈses.ɪv/ [C1] (adj): quá mức

arsenic /ˈɑː.sən.ɪk/ (adj): thạch tín

dismiss /dɪˈsmɪs/ [C1] (v): bác bỏ

differentiate /ˌdɪf.əˈren.ʃi.eɪt/ [C1] (v): phân biệt

inorganic /ˌɪn.ɔːˈɡæn.ɪk/ (adj): vô cơ

sponsor /ˈspɒn.sər/ [B2] (v): tài trợ

boycott /ˈbɔɪ.kɒt/ (v, n): tẩy chay

stall /stɔːl/ (v): đình trệ

crisis /ˈkraɪ.sɪs/ [B2] (n): cuộc khủng hoảng

unsettle /ʌnˈset.əl / (v): làm xáo trộn

prompt sb to do sth /prɒmpt/ [C2] (v): khiến, buộc ai phải làm gì

outraged /ˈaʊt.reɪdʒd/ (adj): phẫn nộ

unite /juːˈnaɪt/ [C1] (v): liên hiệp

trick /trɪk/ (n): trò, thủ đoạn

indispensable /ˌɪn.dɪˈspen.sə.bəl/ [C2] (adj): không thể thiếu

proactive /ˌprəʊˈæk.tɪv/ (adj): chủ động

adapt /əˈdæpt/ [B2] (v): thích nghi, ứng dụng cái gì để đổi mới

hygiene /ˈhaɪ.dʒiːn/ [C1] (n): vệ sinh

associated with /əˈsəʊ.si.eɪ.tɪd/ (adj): liên quan đến

livelihood /ˈlaɪv.li.hʊd/ (n): sinh kế

legacy /ˈleɡ.ə.si/ [C2] (n): di sản

register /ˈredʒ.ɪ.stər/ [B1] (v): đăng ký

renown /rɪˈnaʊn/ (n): tiếng tăm

assert /əˈsɜːt/ [C1] (v – formal): khẳng định


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