Lau Mam, Chau Doc – Mekong Delta in a Hot Pot

Date: 25/10/2019
Chau Doc city is the top pilgrimage destination of the Mekong Delta, surrounded by charming sceneries: ranges of blooming mountains and vast rice fields along the crossways of the Mekong River. There, the Vietnamese, the Cham, and the Khmer people live together in harmony, have built a complex of Buddhism pagodas, Hindu temples, Islam mosques, and many other religious sites.

This gave birth to the one and only Chau Doc cuisine with originality and traditions of many cultures. Therefore, Chau Doc is also known as “the kingdom of fermented pastes,” a typical seasoning condiment that defines Southeast Asian culture.

Located within the intersection of cultures and the branches of the Mekong River, Chau Doc is blessed with plenty of freshwater fauna, creating hundreds of fermented pastes – Mam – from different types of fishes, shrimps, and crabs. The most popular one would be mam Thai – Thai fermented paste or “Pla-ra” in Thai, which is sold everywhere.

There are also specialties that resemble those found in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Malaysia like Prahok, Terasi, and Belacan.  Yet, the most precious and most valued fermented pastes are the local creations: mam sac, mam tren, and mam linh. The mam of Chau Doc is usually subtly sweet with deep saltiness, which is a heavenly good pairing with a hot bowl of white rice on a rainy day of the flood season.

The best of Chau Doc cuisine is represented by lau mam – hot pot with broth made from fermented pastes. Various sophisticated processes and the steaming hot broth take away the fermented odors, leaving behind only the spirits of the Mekong River in a pot. When enjoying this dish, the boiling broth is continuously releasing an inviting fragrance, together with thick and rich flavors. This is the result of the marriage between three most valuable local fermented pastes: mam sac, mam tren, and mam linh.

Mam sac creates an aromatic base for the broth. It is made by fermenting ca sac fish with many fragrant ingredients like lemongrass, palmyra sugar, pineapple, starfruit, rice wine, and salt. Mam tren thickens the broth and seasons it with a richly sweet, savory taste and a mild saltiness. And lastly, mam linh adds an extra buttery and tart layer to round out the flavors to perfection. There are many more types of mam in the base broth, based on how the local chefs tinker with flavors to create their signature delicacy.

A whole buffet of ingredients are put into the pot: around 35 herbs, flowers, and vegetables and a dozen freshwater fishes like ca linh, ca sac, anchovies, eel, squid, and shrimp. A whole library of Mekong’s delicacies from the fields to the river, combine and condense in one dish. It may sound like a messy melting pot, but no, every ingredient miraculously blends into each other, just like how the locals live in this bountiful ecosystem.

The best places to get Lau Mam are located along the Trung Nu Vuong street of Chau Doc city, here are some well-known recommendations:

Quan Com Bay Bong, Chau Doc City
Location: 46 Trung Nu Vuong St., Chau Phu B Ward, Chau Doc city, An Giang province.
Opening Hours: 6:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Price Range: 25.000 VND – 120.000 VND

Quan Dong Que, Chau Doc City
Location: 108 Trung Nu Vuong St., Ward 8, Chau Doc city, An Giang province.
Opening Hours: 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Price Range: 50.000 VND – 200.000 VND

Chua Ba, Chau Doc City
Location: Nui Sam, Chau Doc city, An Giang province.
Opening Hours: 5:00 AM – 11:00 AM

There are plenty of places there that serve lau mam also, on the way to Ba Chua Su Temple. You can explore the pagodas and temples on the peak, then walk down and enjoy a sizzling lau mam hot pot for the best experience.

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