One of my best friends in junior high and high school was a kid named Greg Cohen. He was a water polo player, not much of a food person, but one day he skipped school and talked his mom into making latkes with him. He brought them to class and we gobbled them up. That was the first Jewish food I tasted. Aside from occasionally eating at Jewish delis and one time working a Passover catering event with my friend Kathy, I know very little about Jewish foodways. I’ve seen the Kosher symbol on food products but never paid them too much attention.
But a couple years ago, when visiting Cuong Pham at his Red Boat facilities on Phu Quoc island, he told me about a kosher fish sauce project. He’d contacted a rabbi in Saigon to certify Red Boat’s nuoc mam. I was totally stoked. Jewish Chinese food is plausible, especially given the history of Jews in China but also the popularity of “Kosher Chinese”. Maybe Kosher Vietnamese is on the horizon? If it were to happen, the fish sauce had to be pure and blessed, certified kosher.
What was the interest all about? Who does this? What does kosher fish sauce taste like? I told Cuong that I was interested in the concept on many levels. Last year, he offered me the opportunity to find out more. I just had to travel halfway around the world to get my answers. The rabbi was coming and we’d do a fish sauce barrel tasting. Cuong had invited a bunch of people from the States.