VietNamNet Bridge – Didier Corlou, the owner of five famous restaurants in Hanoi, and former chef of the Sofitel Metropole Hotel, says he has a great love for two things: his Vietnamese wife and Vietnamese fish sauce.
Many Vietnamese people know the name Didier Corlou – a famous French chef who cooked meals for many world celebrities who visited Vietnam. He has a passion for Vietnamese fish sauce, so that he has the nickname “Ong Tay nuoc mam” (fish-sauce foreign man).
Corlou’s knowledge and passion for the traditional sauce of Vietnam can surprise any Vietnamese who takes fish sauce in every meal.
“For me, fish sauce is both a passion and fate. For a foreign man, to love Vietnam and Vietnamese women, they must love fish sauce,” Corlou said.
For the past 25 years in Vietnam, his life has always been attached to fish sauce and there are many interesting stories about this French manassociated with the fish sauce.
Corlou previously hosted a workshop on fish sauce in Hanoi, which had the participation of the representatives of the European Commission delegation in Vietnam and many European countries. At this event, attendants were invited to taste fish sauce in the way experts taste renowned wines.
During his time at the Sofitel Metropole as the chief chef, Corlou invited a farmer from Cat Hai of the northern coastal city of Hai Phong, home to famous Cat Hai fish sauce, to produce fish sauce in the hotel campus. This process took up to six months and the smell of salted anchovies was quite awful.
Fish sauce is banned from transporting by air but Corlou used his own way to carry it with him on flights. He put fish sauce in cognac bottles because the color of fish sauce and cognac is similar.
This French man even makes salt from traditional fish sauce.
Dream of a fish sauce museum
“I use fish sauce, just the traditional fish sauce only, in most of my dishes. In other words, fish sauce is the raw material for me to be creative with passion,” Corlou said.
After leaving Sofitel, Corlou opened five restaurants in the center of Hanoi andfish sauce is still the soul of the menu.
“Here I can invent my own spices, and do what I want, which I could not do at the hotel.”
Now, Corlou has more time with his wife to travel in Vietnam to discover and collect all kinds of Vietnamese spices, and especially invent creative dishes processed from traditional fish sauce.
At age 60, he can stay for months with fishermen in Cat Hai, Phu Quoc, Phan Thiet, Nha Trang, Quy Nhon (famous fish sauce processing areas)… join locals to process fish sauce.
Traditional fish sauce, according to Corlou, is like”a flower” made up of the essence of the sea. He said traditional fish sauce is extremely safe and pure. All bacteria in the sauce has its role and are healthy. They are like the bacteria that turns milk into cheese.
Corlou has a dream: building a museum of Vietnamese fish sauce, where younger generations can learn everything about fish sauce – the premium sauce of Vietnam.