A mouth-watering savory fish sauce dressing laced with a kiss of sweetness, an explosion of umami, and a subtle kick of heat. This is extremely versatile and may be used as a dipping sauce or salad dressing.
What is Vietnamese Dipping Sauce?
This sauce is officially called nước chấm in North Vietnam and nước mắm (nước mắm pha) in Southern Vietnam. It is a dipping sauce that is made with a condiment that is made from fermented salted fish known as nam pla. The core ingredients for dipping sauce is fish sauce, water, garlic, birds eye chilies, and sugar. It functions by adding sweet, salty, and umami flavors to food.
Why This Works
Vietnamese dipping sauce may be made in less than 5 minutes with a few ingredients. It is super delicious and a quick way to add a flavor to a variety of dishes! The core ingredients for Vietnamese dipping sauce is fish sauce, water, garlic, birds eye chilies, and palm sugar. Although I’m providing specific measurements, the secret to making the perfect sauce is to adjust according to your taste buds.
How do you eat nuoc cham?
Vietnamese dipping sauce pairs with any carb or protein but has no possibility of being overused! It makes rice disappear making it the ultimate rice thief. It is often served with the following dishes:
- Bánh cuốn cold rice paper rolls filled with a mixed filling of and vegetables, served with slices of Vietnamese ham. These rolls are wrapped loosely into flat ribbons.
- Bánh xèo, a pan-fried crêpe made from rice flour and coconut milk, and filled with pork, shrimp, onion and bean sprouts, and topped with herbs
- Bún, plain rice noodles or rice noodles served with meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, or vegetables
- Chả giò, fried spring rolls
- Cơm tấm, a rice dish served with meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, or vegetables
- Gỏi cuốn, cold rice paper rolls filled with pork, seafood, or vegetables
What are birds eye chilies?
Bird’s Eye Chilies (Thai chilies, bird chilies) are small but extremely hot chili peppers originating from Southeast Asia. They get their name from their small size and bright red color resembling the eyes of a bird. These chilies are commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisines such as Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian. Despite their small size, they are hotter than jalapeños and Serrano peppers. Bird’s Eye Chilies are available in both red and green colors.
What is fish sauce?
Fish sauce (nuoc mam) is a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine and is known for its dark brown, clear appearance. This fermented liquid seasoning is made from fish and is characterized by its strong, pungent aroma. It has a distinct taste that is a blend of sweet, salty, and slightly briny flavors.
How do I buy fish sauce?
With many different brands available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right nuoc mam. However, my Southeast Asian grandmother prefers the Three Crabs Brand pictured below which is reputable. Please note that there may be brands that have very similar names that are of poorer quality. If a reputable brand that you recognize is unavailable to you, consider the following:
- Read the ingredients: Look for a high percentage of anchovy extract and salt, as this is an indication of high quality. Some lower-quality fish sauces contain added sugars, preservatives, and artificial flavors.
- Consider the color: Fish sauce should be amber-brown in color and relatively clear. If the sauce is very dark, it may indicate over-processing or the addition of caramel color.
- Choose a reputable brand: Look for well-established brands with a proven track record of producing high-quality fish sauce. You can also ask for recommendations from friends or family who have used fish sauce before.
How is fish sauce used?
In cooking, fish sauce is used to add saltiness and a rich umami flavor to dishes. It is commonly used as a seasoning in pho broth, as a dipping sauce in Vietnam, in marinades and sauces for Thai cuisine, and to enhance the flavor of various dishes.
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
- 2.5 cups filtered water, hot
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 garlic cloves, trimmed, peeled, minced
- 1-2 red birds-eye chillies, trimmed, minced
- 1 fresh lime, trimmed at both ends, halved, squeezed
- Add hot water, fish sauce, sugar, minced garlic, minced chillies, and lime juice into a jar. Stir until homogenous. Refrigerate and serve cold.