Vietnamese meal - Why the Vietnamese always have fish sauce on table?
Fish sauce

Fish sauce in a Vietnamese meal

Vietnamese family meal is always a cultural beauty that the locals try to keep and the foreigners try to experience. If you ever pay attention to Vietnamese meal, you might notice that there is always a small bowl of fish sauce in every meal. It is put at the center of the table. And all people in a meal share the same bowl of fish sauce.

What does that bowl of fish sauce mean in a Vietnamese meal?

The meaning of the family gathering in every Vietnamese meal

One of the most impressive cultural beauty of the Vietnamese people is the family meal. From the first days until now, a family meal is very important to the spiritual life of the Vietnamese. A family meal is considered as the soul of happiness. It helps to improve the love in a family. In a Vietnamese meal, people talk together about their day. Parents share their works. Children say about their study. Grandparents listen to and give advice. A family meal with the participation of different generations is a cultural space which shows the inheritance and promotion of the unique value of Vietnamese family.

vietnamese meal is a great traditional culture that the locals try to maintain

Vietnamese family meal is a traditional culture that the locals try to maintain through hundreds of year.

Furthermore, it helps to bring people closer and improve the love among family members. That is why you always receive the invitations to come to their house and have a meal when you get close to a local person. It is not only a family meal but also the traditional manners that people try to respect in the meal.

Since when Vietnamese people have started using fish sauce in every meal?

As the research of European historians, fish sauce first appeared in Carthage which is an ancient country in northern Africa in the 2nd century B.C. In Vietnam, there is some evidence proving that fish sauce appeared in the country under Champa culture. Besides, there are some historical records about the fish sauce in the ancient period of Vietnam. It proves that fish sauce appeared in the country before the 10th century. Additionally, Vietnamese fish sauce was so famous that its fame came to the Chinese King. It has been more than a thousand year that there is always fish sauce in every Vietnamese meal. That is why it takes a very important role in Vietnamese cuisine.

The meaning of fish sauce in a Vietnamese meal

In every main Vietnamese meal, there always is a small bowl of fish sauce. It is not only a taste for a meal but also the quintessence of the local cuisine culture. In most of the countries where people use fish sauce, it is considered as a spice to control the taste of dishes. However, in Vietnam, fish sauce is not only a spice but also is the main dish.

fish sauce always appears in every vietnamese meal

A small bowl of fish sauce always appears in the center of the table – Image: @Vyhng.

A small bowl of fish sauce in a Vietnamese meal help to bring people closer

In Vietnamese culture, fish sauce is a symbol of the gathering, reunion, and sharing. In a Vietnamese meal, people put the bowl of fish sauce in the center of the table. Even though it is neither a big dish or a delicacy, everyone in the meal need to use it with a determined amount. They will not tend to use it more than they need like the way they have other dishes.

Additionally, people in a meal do not monopolize as the bowl of fish sauce belongs to their own. Moreover, all people in a meal use the same fish sauce bowl. It shows the culture of sharing in Vietnamese meal. In the past, the citizens were so poor that they needed to save food more than they ate. Therefore, it created a behavior that people usually share the same dishes of foods. It is a way that the Vietnamese show their love to others. They share what they have to others who are lacking. By the time, it becomes a beauty of the local culture that people proud of.

Fish sauce help to increase the flavor

There are so many dishes in a Vietnamese meal need the fish sauce to make it tastier. Especially when they have noodles. Even though the soup of noodles is fit with their taste, they still need some drops of the fish sauce to make a better flavor. The fish sauce, as well as some kinds of vegetables, is to make the taste of noodles stronger and more special. That is the reason why in most of the noodles eateries, you can see that there is always at least a bottle of fish sauce on every table.

fish sauce in vietnamese meal helps to increase the taste of dish

Even though the dish has been marinated with full of spices, a bowl of fish sauce is still needed – Image: @Chikenhen93.

Additionally, the Vietnamese meal always has vegetables. It is a part of the agriculture which has gone with the local for thousands of year. Moreover, they prefer to have vegetables eat with fish sauce. There are different ways to have vegetables with fish sauce. The most common one is to steam vegetables and dip into the fish sauce. Moreover, the Vietnamese also can have fresh vegetables with the fish sauce too. In the local opinion, the fresh, naturally sweet, and frugal taste of vegetables when combining with the salty and intense taste of the fish sauce will make a balance of the flavor.

Fish sauce is used as a spice in most of the dishes

Not only being considered as a main dish but fish sauce is also a special spice that makes the Vietnamese taste for every local dish. The Vietnamese usually say that there is no fish sauce in the dish, it is not a Vietnamese food. Thus, besides a small bowl of fish sauce on the table in a Vietnamese meal, most of the dishes must contain fish sauce in its ingredients.

fish sauce takes a very important role in the vietnamese meal

The fish sauce takes a very important role in the local family meal.

The most common dishes that Vietnamese always add fish sauce when marinating dried dishes. There are different ways to add fish sauce to the foods. It depends on the different types of materials and cooking methods. There are foods which require to add fish sauce before cooking. There are ones which require to adds when it is boiling. And some require to add when they are ready to eat.


Vietnamese meal is a great spiritual beauty of the local culture. There are table manners that you can only find in Vietnam. One of the most popular things is the presence of a fish sauce bowl on the table. It is not only an indicator of agriculture but also the way people get closer through the meal.