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Adam Balic

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  1. To be honest, I have no idea what 'mam tom' is. As for 'mam ruoc', I have no idea what it actually means, I only know how to refer to it. What I do know though, is that it's NOT fish sauce in any way (did you see this on the actual jars?). 100% sure it's shrimp paste.

    Yes, I have actual jars that say this.

    One jar is labelled "Mam Ruoc Chau Doc -- Fine Shrimp Paste". The other jar is labelled "Mam Ruoc Da Nang -- Fish Sauce". Both jars list the contents as "fine shrimp and salt."

    I have a third jar that is labelled "Mam Tom Thuong Hang -- Shrimp Sauce (Finely Ground)". The contents of this jar are listed as "Fermented shrimp and salt".

    The content of each jar is a slightly different color. Maybe the labels reflect a translation problem? I know Chau Doc and Da Nang are towns in Vietnam, so I was thinking that the first two jars contained different regional versions of shrimp paste? But what about the jar labeled Mam Tom?

    It's a mystery!!

    Ahh then it's probably (I assume) really bad translation? The 'sauce' was most likely referring to 'paste'. Maybe in the Vietnamese language, they don't really differentiate betwen 'sauce' and 'paste'?

    Anyway, I just asked my mum about 'mam tom' and she said yes, that is different from 'mam ruoc'. Problem is she's not familiar with 'mam tom' because it's (apparently) essentially a Northern Vietnamese thing, which she doesn't really know much about...

    She said she'll check up on what's the difference for me though :)

    Please thank your mother for me! I have been wondering what the difference is for a long time. I will be sitting on the edge of my chair waiting to hear....

    Sorry for the late reply! We've been fairly busy with personal issues these few days so I never really got around to getting a proper reply!

    Knowing that, I went straight to my dad instead.

    'Mam tom' uses whole shrimp, unlike the shrimp paste that is 'mam ruoc'. For 'mam tom', they leave the shrimps in a jar for around 6 months in a mixture of salted water and fish sauce (much like other pickling).

    BUT to further complicate matters, because Vietnam has 3 main regions (north, middle and south), 'mam tom' and 'mam ruoc' may be referred to the SAME thing, but uses different names depending on the region.

    In the case of the jars you have, I think your 'mam tom' might be the same as 'mam ruoc' (shrimp paste). Check which region of Vietnam you bought it from.

    I think (note I am only repeating what I hear as I don't know much about this) the Southerners refer to shrimp paste as 'mam ruoc' and the whole shrimp as 'mam tom'.

    Whole shrimp or shrimp paste, that is the question.

    Edit: I just read that Northerners refer to 'mam ruoc' as 'mam tom'.

    Re-edit: I just realised that everything I said must have confused you even more...sorry! :sad:

    I thinkyou're right -- the bottle I have that is labelled "Mam Tom Thuong Hang -- Shrimp Sauce (Finely Ground)" is probably the same thing as mam ruoc. It definitely does NOT have whole shrimp in it.

    But I have seen bottles at my local Asian market that do contain small whole shrimp. Unfortunately these bottles do not have clear labels -- in English at least -- but I bet they are what your Dad described as mam tom.

    This IS confusing, but I think you have cleared things up for me. And I thank you and your family for this information!

    Mam Tom and Mam Ruoc are regional names for similar products (fermented shrimp paste). However, some shrimp pastes with the same name differ due to the degree that the shrimp have broken down and how much they have been dried. A similar situation is found in the Philippines where shrimp bagoong is mostly a liquid like Malay cincalok, but somtimes a dried paste like belachan.

  2. It's been a few years since New World/Old World contact. We even have pumpkins in Australia now. :smile: From personal experience I can't remember seeing any, but I wasn't looking for them. The climate is right and they are easy to grow so I would expect to find them there.

    There are references to pumpkins in Morocco in the 19th century and there are various types found there. As part of a wider genertic analysis of Curcurbita moschata two samples from Morocco were included and there is a Cucurbita moschata variety there known as "Courge bédouine" in Morocco. So they are present.

    Not sure how common or regional they are though.

  3. Given the region if a chile sauce (not common in the modern period until recently)was to be found in Morocco at this period, then I guess that it might be here near Spain. I haven't seen this word used to refer to chiles in English texts of the period, but there are few references at all (nearly all refer to Guinea pepper in one spelling or another). If the cleric's introduction to the chile was via a Spanish route then this is quite possible.

    There are other hot spices used in the region (long pepper, Grains of Paradise, Cubebs), but these don't have names that are similar to Dimicuto. At a long shot it could be a very poor spelling of "Pimienta" (Pepper and in some case Chile Pepper).

  4. I can only assume a lot of folks posting here have never used an ebook reader like the Kindle. To clarify a few points:

    - The epaper display on a device like the Kindle is substantially more paper-like than a laptop screen. The experience comes damn close to reading print on paper. At the very least, anybody who spends a few minutes with a Kindle is likely to conclude that with a few more generations of product development the epaper displays will be on par with paper-and-ink or may even look better.

    Sounds interesting, my concern would be that you would end up loosing data due to upgrades etc. A lot of data from earlier on in my career (10 years ago) is no longer accessible (without great effort) due to either the software or the format it is stored in.

    While a lot of books I enjoy might not make it to this format, the use of google books has made me realize how valuble this technology is. I love the tactile nature of books, but access to data is something I love even more.

    I think that eventually I will use both formats.

  5. It doesn't matter if they are different dishes now (there are lots of variations), I'm more interested in if one is based on the other. What does "Kapitan" mean in Malay for instance?

    I think they are totally different. Not based on one another.

    Kapitan in Malay means Chinese community leader.

    They are different dishes, but related which is what I was interested in. "Kapitan" is likely to be based on the Portuguese "Kapitan Cinas", hence you modern definition of community leader.

    The dish that you decribe is often mentioned as a Eurasian dish, and there seem to be lots of variations. Some without any coconutmilk and there is a related Nyonya dish called "Kare Kapitan". So there are many variations on the recipe, some with spices, some with only turmeric. Charmaine Soloman calls the dish "Country Captain" in her Singapore section of her asian cookbook. Her recipe is very basic, esssentially resembling the Anglo-Indian dish.

    "Country Captain" is a very widely distributed dish, there are modern regional English and Southern American cookbooks that list the dish, that have little idea of it's Asian origin.

    The oldest English recipe I have is from 1827:

    "A Country Captain,

    Cut a fowl in pieces, and shred a large onion very

    small, and fry it brown in butter. Sprinkle the fowl

    with fine salt, and dust it over with fine curry-powder, and

    fry it brown; put all into a stewpan, with a pint of soup,

    and stew it slowly down to one half: serve it with rice."

    No that far from some modern asian versions.

    There are lots of folk-tale about the origin of the name "Country Captain", most serious accounts are based on the Hobson-Jobson definition, that is it is an Indian dish. "Country" refers to anything from India rather then England, so the chicken dish is the "favourite dish at the table of the skippers of ‘country ships". This seems to be another folk-tale.

    Julie Sahni in her regional Indian cookery that Country Captain is simply known as "Kapitan" in some areas.

    So not the same dish, but certainly related.

  6. Under 'Nyonya Food' - there's a recipe for - Chicken Kapitan.

    I'm curious about this dish. Is it based on the Anglo-Indian "Country Captain" chicken curry dish or something else again?

    Country Captain uses prepared curry powder which typically consists of cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, chilli powder, tumeric, etc. And the chicken is cooked in chicken broth like a stew.

    Ayam Kapitan is not like a curry at all. It doesn't use curry powder. The recipe typically uses chilli paste, onions, lemongrass, fresh tumeric root and sometimes a bit of belacan. Lime juice is also added. And it's cooked in coconut milk with ground candlenuts as a thickening agent.

    They don't taste the same. :wink:

    See one here.

    It doesn't matter if they are different dishes now (there are lots of variations), I'm more interested in if one is based on the other. What does "Kapitan" mean in Malay for instance?

  7. It is more then possible that Dampier used a word picked up previously or from an onboard interpreter that either has roots in a SE-Asian language or from Portuguese.

    In regards to the latter, it would made sense in terms of the amount of regions that the Portuguese introduced the product/recipe into, but I haven't managed to come up with a likely Portuguese root word. There are plenty of candidate Portguese recipes (seafood conserves, Escabeche, Achar) from the 17th century and some of them are very similar to the modern recipes, but I just can't see a candidate word origin.

  8. I'm interested in if he was accurate in describing the residue of fish sauce produced in this traditional manner (not re-used to produce lesser grades of sauce) as "balachaun", a name now more associated with fermented shrimp pastes?

    Here's one modern day account of how fish sauce is made in Thailand. Click here.

    I think William Dampier was accurate in his account as the process he describes is not very different from how fish sauce is made today in South East Asia, taking into account advances in technology and modern production methods employed to replace outmoded artisanal practices.

    What is interesting though is his usage of the word 'belachaun' (belachan) to describe the residue. As far as I can ascertain belachan is a Malay word and its use in 17th Century Vietnam (if Dampier is correct) suggests a Malay influence in fish sauce-making. Ironically, although belachan is produced and eaten (with relish) throughout the Malay Archipelago, there are only a handful of fish sauce producers. Today, most people associate fish sauce with Thai and Vietnamese cuisine and not necessarily with Malay cuisine.

    I am curious how Dampier described Vietnam in the 17th Century. I think the country received its modern name only in the 19th Century. Southern and Central Vietnam would have been called Champa in the 17th Century. Is it possible that Dampier got his geography mixed-up? Is it possible that he was witnessing the production of belachan in the Malay Archipelago where the fish sauce/liquor is drawn off as a byproduct?

    In "A New Voyage Round the World" Dampier described Tonquin (Đông Kinh), Malacca, Achin, so parts of Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. The description of the fish sauce (pg 28) seems to be from Tonquin (Vietnam), but as you say he could have confused terms or used a term that he had heard elsewhere in the wrong context.

  9. Belachan (malaysian term) or also know as "terasi" in indonesia is a fermented shrimp paste.  I am not aware that Vietnamese also use Belachan in their cooking (but then I havent really cooked much Vietnamese cuisine) . I know for sure that Thai use fermented shrimp paste but they dont call it belachan.

    Hi MP. Belachan/blacan/blacan belongs to a superfamily of similar sounding shrimp preserves (Balchão in Goa, Ballychow in Calcutta, Balichao/Balichung in Macau, Blachang in Sri Lanka, Balachaung in Burma, Bagoong in the Philippines, Balachong/Balichow/Bullachong etc to the British Raj). The actual composition varies quite a bit from region to region.

    In general they are quite different products from the fermented shrimp paste variously know as ngapi/trasi/kapi/mam tom and in Malaysia as Blacan/blachan. I'm interested in finding out is the fermented residue from making fish (and/or shrimp) sauce was ever know as balachaun, as mentioned by Dampier as this provides a link between the fermented shrimp pastes and the other Bal- named shrimp preserves.

    From what I can tell the residue from making fish sauce isn't eaten today, but I'm sure it once was and I an particularly interested in working out what this product was called.

  10. The 17th century "adventurer" William Dampier describes the process of making fish sauce in Vietnam thus:

    "To make it, they throw the mixture of

    shrimps and small fish into a sort of weak pickle,

    made with salt and water, and put it into a tight

    earthen vessel or jar. The pickle being thus weak,

    it keeps not the fish firm and hard, neither is it

    probably so designed, for the fish are never gutted.

    Therefore, in a short time they turn all to a mash

    in the vessel; and when they have lain thus a

    good while, so that the fish is reduced to a pap,

    they then draw off' the liquor into fresh jars, and

    preserve it for use. The masht fish that remains

    behind is called balachaun, and the liquor poured

    off is called nuke-mum"

    I'm interested in if he was accurate in describing the residue of fish sauce produced in this traditional manner (not re-used to produce lesser grades of sauce) as "balachaun", a name now more associated with fermented shrimp pastes?

  11. A Nebraska ex-pat with limited equipment cooks shark just like everyone else: in a pan or on the grill--and with the latest health info in mind.

    Shark is very high up on the list of fish to avoid for two reasons. One, it's the third highest in mercury levels, coming in just below Tilefish and Swordfish. Is there a lot of shark eaten where you are? As a med student it's worth knowing that current recommendation is that children and pregnant women avoid eating shark entirely. Two, it's severely overfished and often caught as a biproduct of fishing methods that are not environmentally sound.

    That said, I'm sure it looked nice and fresh in that wheelbarrow.

    A great source of info about fish that are safe and fish to avoid is the Monterey Bay Aquarium site.

    Mercury levels most likely depend on the species of shark, age, location etc, but the EPA suggests not eating shark greater than 43 inches and not at all for pregnant women or small children.

    Much smaller shark species are a popular fish in Australia and they are also very popular in Spain and Portugal. Will have to look into their mercury levels.

  12. The vast majority of haggis made now are quite different to the haggis that Burns described, not so much in the contents as in the casing. The haggis from Burns' period was made using a sheep rumen (1st stomach), these are not commonly used now. Part of the reason for this is that a total volume ofa sheep rumen is 5-7 litres, which mades a huge pudding (Macsweens, the famous haggis makers only use sheep gut casings for haggis of six pounds or more). If natural casings are used these are most often beef caecum (the sausage skins) which are pretty much flavour and odourless. Even more a put in artifical casings.

    So essentially what you have is a warm, crumbly pate. But such is the fearsome reputation of the haggis that even when confronted with a portion, many people can only think of entrails and guts.

  13. Is calamansi the same as calamondin?

    The picture doesn't look like the kalamansi I know, which is almost always green, sometimes with patches of pale yellow.

    Here's a picture of it in imagegullet, not mine.


    Same thing as a Calamondin (an ancient cross between a kumquat and a mandarin). Kumquat and calamondin are often confused (especially in Australia), but the former is usually sweeter (the peel).

    The kalamansi I have had in SE-Asia are used green, which leads to an extra confusion that recipes translated into English often say "Lime", which they differ from widely in size and flavour. In Australia most "kumquats" are actually calamondin and are used when ripe (orange yellow) to make marmalade or to preserve in alcohol etc.

    The sixe of the fruit is influenced a bit by the size of the tree, as calamondin are often grown in tub and use a dwarfing rootstock the fruit is slightly smaller then a lot of the Kalamansi I have seen in SE-Asia.

  14. Well it doesn't take farmland, rather watered beds. Also the cumulative effect is far nicer to the environment. No pesticides, no antibiotics, and you don't need fields of GM grian and soy so you can feed the Spinach 'Frankenstein foods' to make it grow.

    OK, so now you want to make spinach too expensive for the poor. I wonder what the cost basis is for watered beds vs field grown spinach. I don't think they use antibiotics on spinach nor do I believe do they feed it "frankenstein foods" to make it grow. Again, it would be nice to have a selection of organic foods at our local stores but to feed our population we do need "food factories".

    I would like my food to be humanely treated as much as possible. I don't want my chicken to be drop kicked before it's killed nor do I want my beef to be skinned alive. Nothing's perfect so I expect some problems like this to creep into the system, people are not perfect. To be honest though, if it takes the occasional kicked chicken to put some meat on the table of a poor family I don't mind.

    Another thing, up thread you mentioned having a farmer's market. It's a wonderful thing, something I've brought up with our Mayor. The poor shop for the lowest prices to stretch their food budget, that means chain stores. Farmer's Markets are for people who have the leisure time to shop. When I was a young child (before the advent of a grocery store every few blocks) my Mother bought meat from the butcher, greens from a produce stand and groceries from the corner store. Milk was delivered and in the Summer you would have trucks drive down the ally hawking fresh produce. Since then our population has almost doubled and continues to grow.

    You cannot expect to feed a growing population using organic methods without price increases. Price increases hurt the poor disproportionately, look at what happened to corn prices when the U.S. switched from MTBE to ethanol. Should the poor in Mexico, Central & South America make do with less corn for tortillas and other staples?

    If you have a problem with fast food, that's fine, more power to you. Having been in a position where all I could afford to eat was rice for a month I can see where this push for organic foods, regardless of the consequences, would seem offensive.

    Make up your mind. I'm either offending you for advocating the 99c Organic Spinach or I'm offending you by trying to price it higher for some reason.

    I'm simply putting information out there that I don't think people have.

    It is an easy thing to do to reach for the 69c a lb chicken parts in the mega-mart.

    (price-checked at King Soopers today. 10lb of frozen Chicken Quarters for $6.90)

    I understand that. However, given all the facts, knowing everything about that Chicken I think a lot of people would buy a smaller amount of meat, add some extra veggies and feel alot better about the food they were eating.

    It really doesn't come down to rich or poor. It comes down to knowledge.

    It is easier to not think. It's easier to ignore stuff. But if you are poor in America, you really ought to think because you better not get sick. And there are way too many unscrupulous companies who'll take your thoughtless dollar in exchange for garbage.

    There are a lot of issues here, but one specific on is that it is very much a case of rich v poor. There is very little evidence that factory farmed meat et al., is significantly different in terms of nutrition them free-range organic. There are many factors that a different, but not so much nutrition.

    The average household income in the UK is approximately 25K (pounds), the two lower quintiles are 12-18k. In the case of the lower income groups you are essentially asking them to give up cheap, questionable ethically raised, potentially containing antibiotics, but still nutritious animal protein.

    I'm not sure that I am comfortable with removing peoples choice and access to food with out offering a viable alternative. If you come from a higher income bracket then be thankful you can indulge you choice at a farmers market.

  15. I grow turmeric (the leaves are used in some Indonesian dishes), buy fresh rhizomes and use the dried form forms. Unfortunately dried and powdered froms are often bitter and flavorless. Better luck with whole dried rhizone (although they are diffucult to grind), which preserved some of the amazing fruity aroma of the fresh rhizomes.

    The fresh rhizomes are used in a lot of SE-Asian cooking and have a flavour and aroma that is miles away from the bitter staleness that is often the case with the powdered form.

    If you have access to fresh rhizomes (chilled section of Asian grocer in my case) it is easy enough to grow you own from these. Collect a half dozen large sized rhizomes and place them in a potting tray full of seed raising mix, cover with cling film or place in a plastic bag an leave for a month or so in a warm spot. At this point roots will have developed on some of the rhizomes, transfer to new pots with new potting mixture, from some of these you will get green shoots. In about a year leaves and rhizomes are ready to harvest.

  16. Looks like some sort of biofilm crud, not likely to be a vinegar mother though, more likely cruddy pipes back at the brewery. I have had some pretty bad real ale in the UK which had a distinct taste of acetic acid, this was from hand pumped ale lines.

    "Vinegar" was made out of ale historically (it was called "alegar"), a modern derivative is called "Malt Vinegar".

  17. Is this the same sort of al dente texture you get from dried durum pasta or that sort of bouncy, almost gelled texture you get in well made, high egg content fresh pasta? Al dente texture is not normally associated with this type of fresh pasta.

    I'm pretty sure you couldn't get an "al dente"' texture from a fresh flat pasta made from soft wheat flour and eggs alone, so I wonder if the egg content and skill of the pasta maker is the key?

  18. I have a number of these books and do like them, but they can be very poor in some respects. Fish are often misidentified (sometimes other items) and in the English edition of "European Specialties" pg 1-15 are in German, this is the index and part of the "England" section. On the other hand they do contain some very interesting local dishes that I have not seen else where.

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