Nuoc cham is a basic and ubiquitous Vietnamese dipping sauce or condiment that is used with a host of different dishes: spring rolls, grilled pork chops and beef, fried fish, salads, and much more. At it’s simplest, it is a mix of one part fish sauce, one part lime juice, one part sugar and two parts water. Having said that, it is a sauce that combines sour, sweet, salty and spicy and should be adjusted until it has the right balance.
The first part is mixing the – for lack of a better word – ‘limonade’ portion. If the sugar, water and lime juice mix is too sweet, add some more lime juice or water. If too sour, add more sugar. Fresh limes will vary in citrus flavor, hence the need to taste for balance.
The second part is adding the fish sauce for the umami flavor, adding and tasting along the way. You can also add other ingredients like garlic and Thai chili to add heat to the dipping sauce. Once it’s made, it can last up to a month in the fridge.
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)
Makes about 1 cup
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 small garlic clove, finely minced (optional)
- 1 Thai chili, thinly sliced (optional)
- Combine the water, sugar and lime juice, stirring until all sugar is dissolved. Taste for the right balance of sweet and sour, adjust if necessary.
- Combine the fish sauce in increments, tasting along the way. Once the right balance is found between the sweet, sour and umami, add optional ingredients if using.
- Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.