Salad from herring, Phu Quoc’s tasty offering
Soft and fresh herring fillets mixed with onion and grated coconut make for the unique herring fish salad, a Phu Quoc Island specialty.
In the seventh and eighth lunar months, when the southwest monsoon blows, fishermen on Phu Quoc Island in southern Kien Giang Province go out into sea for the year’s biggest herring season.
To catch the fish, they have to set sail early in the morning. Around 10 kilometers from shore, they change into a small circular boat called ‘thuyen thung’ to cast their nets. By 8-9 a.m. boats filled with fresh fish arrive back on shore.
The herring can be grilled, braised or fried, made into a sour soup, filleted with tomato, but the stand-out dish is the salad. According to locals, salad with herring from Khem Beach is the best.
A plate of fresh herring salad to serve three people costs from VND120,000 ($5). It is served with herbs, cucumber slices, rice paper, and dipping sauce. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.
It might be a simple enough dish but it involves some sophisticated processing. The fish must be fresh. It is scaled and the gut, head, fins, and tail are taken out, and a thin knife is used to remove the bone and slide out the meat on the sides.
Onion, carrot, grated coconut, fried minced garlic, and cilantro are mixed with the meat and sour sauce. The sour sauce for the salad mixture is not made from lemon juice but from guava vinegar, and is seasoned with salt and sugar to create a slightly sour taste and a delightful aroma.
The herring used to make the salad are moderate in size and with the skin. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.
Herring salad is not complete without the dipping sauce made from minced garlic, chili, roasted peanuts, the renowned Phu Quoc fish sauce, sugar, and lemon juice.
The proper way to eat it is to take a piece of rice paper, add the herbs, cucumber and fish, roll it firmly and dip it in the sweet and sour sauce. The sweet herring meat and grated coconut, the herbs and the rich and lingering spicy sauce make for an explosion of flavors.
The dipping sauce made from minced garlic, chili, roasted peanuts, Phu Quoc fish sauce, sugar, and lemon juice. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.