It can be said that ‘Mam Tom’ (Vietnamese shrimp paste) is one of the most special dishes of Vietnam. Not only in a particular region, but shrimp paste is also a rural and simple ingredient appeared in the majority of Vietnamese kitchens.

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The distinct characteristic of Vietnamese shrimp paste is the most significant advantage of this dish. However, due to its strong smell, many people do not like this spice very much. Shrimp paste is both a dipping sauce and an ingredient to taste other dishes to enhance their flavors. Shrimp paste is made from shrimp incubated with granular salt to avoid damages from insects and maggots. Depending on the amount of salt and sun drying process, the shrimp paste will have different types of liquid, thickness, and solid.

Its ingredients are simple, only including shrimp and salt. However, to have good quality Vietnamese shrimp paste, it is necessary to make every stage carefully. All the pots and tanks for incubating shrimp paste must be cleaned to avoid contamination, causing the damage of the whole shrimp paste. The drying place must be clean and well ventilated

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Vietnamese shrimp paste is quite picky for eaters because of its strong smell. Especially for foreigners, shrimp paste is classified as one of the most difficult-to-eat dishes in Vietnam. However, if you try the unique taste of shrimp paste, you may recognize this rich flavor which can stimulate all of your senses. There are dishes will no longer be tasty because the short of shrimp paste. The option to use with tomato sauce, to prepare ‘Gia Cay’ (made from pork thigh), to serve with vermicelli and fried tofu, and so on can be some typical meals for Northern cuisine. When eating, people will add a little lime juice or white wine and beat up the shrimp paste until foaming. In some other places, eaters also supplement some white sugar into the dish.

Ingredients for Vietnamese shrimp paste recipe (Mam tom recipe)

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  • Small shrimp: 1 kg
  • Grain salt: 0.5 kg
  • White wine: 20 ml
  • Chinaware, porcelain bowls with a lid to incubate the shrimp paste

Instruction for making Vietmaese shrimp paste recipe

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– You should choose the fresh, small shrimps and prawns. Then, pick up all wastes, wash cleanly, and drain. This step must be done carefully so that shrimp paste will not be mixed with undesirable materials, affecting the delicious taste of the dish.

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– Put shrimp into a blender with salt and white wine, then puree at the medium speed. The amount of salt needs to be 1/3 in proportion to the raw material. You give the sufficient amount of salt with shrimp  so that it is not too salty nor too light when finished. Ingredients for shrimp paste should be pureed and mixed well.

Absolutely not add water while grinding to have a relatively thick mixture.

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– This is the newly ground shrimps. Next, pour them into chinaware bowls to prepare the paste.

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– At the time of pouring out, ground shrimps have quite bright colors. You leave them in place, cover them tightly with lid, and place in a cool area for fermented shrimps.

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– If the lid is not tight, you have to adjust accordingly. In warm sunny days, you bring shrimp paste to the sun to stimulate the sauce to ferment.

You should remember to put the shrimp paste in a dry place when the sun is out, avoid rainwater!

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– This is the shrimp paste after about 10 days of incubation. Its color will darken, and its volume will reduce.

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This is the paste after two months of incubation.

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After six months, the paste turns a characteristic dark color, giving off a fragrant smell. It is time we can use this dish.

In big sunny places, the sun drying process of shrimp paste will be faster. The completion time of incubating shrimp paste will be shortened to about 3-4 months. When the shrimp paste is ripe, it has looks purple with fragrant smell, you extract it into small jars and put the lid tightly to use gradually.  Also, the taste of shrimp paste is quite strong. Therefore, many people still have the wrong view that the more smelly it is, the better it tastes. However, the heavy smell does not mean delicious shrimp paste. Delicious shrimp paste must be thickened and pureed with the strong fragrance, not smelly. When you use the shrimp paste, it should be served immediately. You should not prepare and save for the next time.

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