While he dresses in the bankers’ standard polo and khakis, and he sits behind a desk appropriate for the General Director of Thanh Hoa Microfinance Institution, Duong lights up in an uncharacteristic way when the conversation turns to north Vietnamese culinary delicacies like pork rolls and rice paper with fish sauce.
As he’s rhapsodizing about the local flavors, though, he pauses.
“For foreigners,” he reflects, taking in his American audience. “You may not like these very much. They’re fermented dishes that could be difficult for you to eat.”
Fermented foods, like many of Duong’s interests, take time to appreciate.
Traditionally, Vietnamese fish sauce is made by layering fresh anchovies and sea salt in large wooden barrels, which are then left outside in the sun for months. The heat naturally breaks down the anchovy-salt mixture, and the result is uniquely local but also popular all over the world.