Local Produces

Phu Quoc

The perfect all-purpose pepper

No one is sure how long pepper has been grown on Phu Quoc Island but, nevertheless, today this indigenous spice is exported all around the world and lauded by culinary connoisseurs, who describe it as the ‘perfect all-purpose pepper’. Although the soil on Phu Quoc is sandy and dry, locals believe the island’s mineral-rich soil and distinctive climate infuses the pepper with a special flavour and fragrance. The pepper, which comes in three varieties (red, white, black) is cultivated and farmed without the use of chemicals or machinery. Instead, local farmers use organic fertilisers and dry the peppers in natural sunlight. With 385ha of pepper plantations all around the island, visitors can visit the farms while staying on the island and a bag of the Phu Quoc pepper is a wonderful souvenir for friends and family back home. Just don’t forget to grab some for your own spice rack!

The champagne of fish sauces

A recognized trademark known throughout the world, Phu Quoc’s ‘nuoc mam’ (pronounced ‘noo-uk mam’) is said to be the champagne of fish sauces. An essential condiment for all Vietnamese cuisine, fish sauce adds vital umami to soups and forms the fundamental base for myriad dipping sauces throughout the land. But Phu Quoc fish sauce – made from locally sourced anchovies – is prized above all other Vietnamese varieties for its rich-body and sweet aroma. The production process begins on the boat, where freshly caught anchovies are cleaned and salted to ensure freshness. Afterwards, the anchovies are left to ferment in giant wooden barrels for a period of nine to 15 months. Phu Quoc nuoc mam became the first product from Southeast Asia to receive Protected Designation of Origin certification from the EU Commission. To earn the prestigious label, a food product – such as Prosciutto di Parma of Italy, French Champagne or Basmati rice – must be made entirely within a defined geographical area, using skills and ingredients from the region.

A precious gift to the islanders

The uniquely tranquil waters off the coast of Phu Quoc are also the ideal place for the rich development of marine life. But mouthwatering seafood isn’t the only commodity that has had islanders plunging into the shallow depths throughout the years. They have also long sought natural oysters for pearls, even if the odds were against them: only an estimated one in 15,000 oysters contained a natural pearl. Still, that’s why Phu Quoc is known to Vietnamese as ‘Pearl island’. Since the turn of the century, pearl farming has become a budding industry, so the sourcing of pearls and mother of pearl is performed more efficiently thanks to the application of advanced technologies. At the night-market Duong Dong – the island’s capital city – you will see how pearls have been made into rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets. Mother of pearl (also sourced from mussels) from Phu Quoc is also used throughout Vietnam in the crafting of furniture and decorative art. As for the oysters, well, naturally, they’re extremely delicious and highly nutritious.