How to Make Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Sweet, sour, salty with a spicy kick (if you like), this tasty Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham) livens up any dish it is added to. Perfectly versatile sauce for spring rolls, salads, noodles, grilled meats and so much more!

 

Nuoc Cham

 

I love, love, love this Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham) sauce! Seriously, if I can add this to anything, I will. It’s just so good! It’s amazing that with just a few ingredients mixed together, this sauce produces such a complex yet delicious combination of flavors!

 

 

It showcases perfectly balanced flavors that all work together to create a condiment that truly enhances the taste of anything it is added to. 

I have often said that this Nuoc Cham perfectly defines what  Vietnamese cuisine all about. How did I know that?

Through a cooking class I attended in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam a few years ago when I visited the country while on a cooking tour for my book to learn more about Vietnamese cuisine.

 

Nuoc Cham

 

I learned so much under an amazing chef who was previously a scientist, a chemist, if I recall it correctly. That’s why all his recipes were very precise – he has almost a formulaic approach to his cooking. It must work because everything I tasted during that cooking class was absolutely delicious!

Most of all he kindly shared literally hundreds of his recipes with me. I could even open a Vietnamese restaurant if I wanted to based on those! Haha.

 

Nuoc Cham

 

He was the one who introduced me to the “happy family” of flavors that make up Vietnamese cuisine. After tasting all the dishes he prepared, I was totally sold. 

Even today, every time I cook Vietnamese food, I hear his voice in my ears whispering – “Remember the happy family. You do that and everything will be fine!” That is what guides me in making delicious Vietnamese food.

 

Nuoc Cham

 

So what is this HAPPY FAMILY in Vietnamese cooking?

Well, happy family represents a harmonious and perfectly balanced combination of flavors that is associated with Vietnamese food and cooking.

Essentially, “happy family” is a combination of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy flavors all coming together in one dish. Neither one flavor overpowers the rest but all work together to produce a layer of flavors that would make your tastebuds sing! 

Don’t you notice this layering of flavors when you eat Vietnamese and Thai food? Nothing monotonous in their flavors! Yup, their cuisine is so closely related to one another!

I think the Thais and the Vietnamese have truly perfected this art! That’s why I am a huge fan of their cuisine!!!

So my favorite chef told me that whenever I make Vietnamese food, I should remember to balance these flavors and that the result would always be delicious and authentic! I have often applied this principle not just to Vietnamese cooking but any other Asian cuisine and the results were amazing.

Learn how to balance these flavors and your dish would come out tasty and complex and would never be one-dimensional. Also, training your palate to do this means in the future you may not even need to totally follow a recipe but can simply use your own tastebuds to guide you. Now, that is amazing!

 

 

INGREDIENTS YOU NEED TO MAKE this basic Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

  • Lime juice – freshly squeezed is best. This represents the SOUR element.
  • Fish sauce – use only the best and purest quality you can find (no additives). This represents the SALTY element.
  • Sugar – white or brown is fine. Brown sugar like the one I used above, makes this sauce slightly darker. – This represents the SWEET element.
  • Water – helps dilute the sauce a little and also aids in balancing all the other flavors.
  • Thai red chili – this would add a little kick but won’t make the spring rolls or salad spicy so don’t forget to add this. This represents the SPICY element.
  • Garlic – adds even more complexity and deliciousness to the sauce!

This sauce is perfect to use with spring rolls,  as dressing for salads or noodles, and adds extra yum when served with grilled meats and so much more!

 

Nuoc Cham

5 from 7 votes
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How to Make Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Sweet, sour, salty with a spicy kick (if you like), this tasty Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham) livens up any dish it is added to. Perfectly versatile sauce for spring rolls, salads, noodles, grilled meats and so much more!

Course Sauce
Cuisine Asian Cuisine, Southeast Asian, Vietnamese
Keyword how to make vietnamese dipping sauce, nuoc cham, spicy dipping sauce, vietnamese dipping sauce for spring rolls, vietnamese sauce recipe for vermicelli, vietnamese sauces and condiments
Prep Time 10 minutes
Author Manila Spoon

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1-2 Thai red chili, sliced thinly

Recipe Notes

This can be made a day ahead if preferred.

Use a good quality and pure fish sauce without any additives like those made from Vietnam or Thailand

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8 Comments

  1. Beth
    October 1, 2020 / 2:33 pm

    5 stars
    Yummy! This looks so delicious and yummy! I can’t wait to make this Vietnamese dipping sauce.

  2. Pris Frank
    October 1, 2020 / 2:45 pm

    5 stars
    Yes!! The layering of flavors in Vietnamese and Thai food is really unique, and I absolutely love both cuisines… and this sauce! The recipe seems really easy. I have fish sauce that I bought in Bangkok a looong time ago and I just used once! I think I’ll try your dipping sauce with sweetener instead of sugar, do you think it might work?

    • abigail
      Author
      October 1, 2020 / 6:19 pm

      Yes, simply adjust the sweetness to your liking. Enjoy!

  3. Heidy
    October 1, 2020 / 3:13 pm

    5 stars
    This Vietnamese Dipping Sauce was so perfect! I loved it! I used it on my salad and then on some spring rolls—both tasted terrific. Saving this recipe to make again.

  4. Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    October 1, 2020 / 4:22 pm

    5 stars
    This is such a delicious sauce! We love dipping spring rolls in it!

  5. Chris Collins
    October 1, 2020 / 4:24 pm

    5 stars
    This dip looks totally delicious! Can’t believe this Vietnamese dipping sauce has only 6 ingredients too, I’ll definitely be giving it a go. 🙂

  6. Emily
    October 1, 2020 / 4:25 pm

    5 stars
    My daughter loves Vietnamese cuisine and she loved this dipping sauce! We will definitely be making again!

  7. Dimitri Komarov
    October 12, 2020 / 5:41 am

    5 stars
    I have started cooking Vietnamese food during the lockdown. I am absolutely trying this dipping sauce when I cook next. Keep sharing such amazing recipes, more power to you.

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