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Mam Ruoc - what is this Vietnamese sauce?

Alice Patis | Aug 16, 200610:59 PM

I went to a northern vietnamese restaurant today and we had a dish called Mam Ruoc Hue Xao Xa Ot Thit Heo, where the primary ingredient is mam ruoc, and I'm curious about what is mam ruoc.

In my limited 3rd grade level vietnamese, I know Mam to be fermented shrimp sauce (the purple stuff), and ruoc to be shredded salty dried pork (the fluffy suff that looks like belly lint), but the sauce we ate tasted nothing like the purple fermented shrimp sauce and nothing like the shredded fluffy belly lint pork. It was very pungent and salty but meaty tasting, not shrimpy tasting. Of course it also had minced pork, lemongrass and chiles so I have no idea if I was tasting the pork or the mam ruoc when I say it was meaty tasting, not shrimpy tasting.

Googling turns up this explanation of mam ruoc from

Shrimp Paste (mam ruoc) - a dense mixture of fermented, ground shrimp found in markets throughout Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia - piled in large, dark brown or muddy red mounds. It is used in small amounts, due to its strong flavor.

Ok but to me that describes Mam Tom, the fermented shrimp paste. Is Mam Tom and Mam Ruoc the same thing, just different names?

My gramma used to make the dish we ate, but she died 16 years ago. My mom might know so I'll ask her. In the meantime, any hounds know what exactly is mam ruoc, and what is in the dish we ate today?

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