Our special Mam Ruoc was sneaked in all the way from My Tho, Viet Nam. It was covered with layers of plastic bags and packed inside a jar to keep the odor away from airport securities. It’s not a big deal, but we don’t want them to gag. The scent of Mam Ruoc is not pleasurable. Even our aunt would not let us prepare our savory Mam Ruoc Xao Xa Ot inside her house. We had to cook outside in the cold and, at the same time, hoped her neighbors would not scold us.
To get the best out of Mam Ruoc, mix with lemon grass, sugar, garlic, chilly, vinegar, and whatever seasonings were needed to smooth out the flavor. Pre-fry the bacon (thit ba roi), pour in the blended Mam Ruoc, stir well, and ready to serve.
All you need is a crusty cucumber to go with Mam Ruoc Xao Xa Ot. Remember, go easy on the Mam Ruoc, a tiny bit at a time, or else you’ll be drinking water all day. Even on a cold snowy day, the tang of Mam Ruoc Xao Xa Ot makes me feel nostalgic.