File this one under: “Not-so-pretty” pictures, and “Jobs I’m glad I don’t have to do.”
Just outside Battambang, Cambodia, there is a huge, warehouse-like building where fish-paste is made. You can imagine it, can’t you? Hot, dark, damp, and – yes – smelly. Surprisingly, this place is a fairly routine stop on the day-trip circuits. It certainly gives the visitor an insight into local lifestyles and the work that goes into “simple” meals: fish sauce and fish paste are absolutely essential ingredients in many dishes in this part of the world and sit as condiment staples on most tables.
Phsar Prohok (The Fish Paste Market) is certainly NOT the sort of place I would have sought out for myself! I don’t usually even eat fish. But, this stop was pre-arranged. It was all part of a tuk-tuk tour of Battambang’s surrounds – cultural villages and ancient temples – with a number of keen photographers, under the guidance of Karl Grobl, Gavin Gough and Marco Ryan.
Making the fish paste is a slow, labour intensive process. Many different varieties of fresh fish arrive and are cleaned, chopped and sun-dried or otherwise treated before being smoked or soaked. Large wooden, stone or steel vats are filled with bits of fish mixed with herbs spices, and heaven-only-knows what else, and sit quietly fermenting in the shaded alleys of the factory/market. These pungent smelling stews are occasionally stirred with large wooden paddles, then pounded with a wooden plunger before being forked into bags for weighing and marketing.
It was actually quite interesting, and is worth a wander through. Still, I was happy that we didn’t stay too long.
And, I’m very happy NOT to be the one working there!
Visit and Photos: 23 July 2011