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Fish Dipping Sauce - {Nuoc Cham}


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  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce (nuoc mam)
  • 1/2 cup lime or lemon juice
  • (from abt 3 limes or 2 lemons)
  • 1 large garlic clove crushed, peeled, and sliced or minced
  • 1 or more bird's eye or Thai chilies seeded, and sliced or minced
  • 1 shallot peeled, sliced thin, rinsed, and drained (optional)


Servings 2


Step 1

Whisk together the sugar, water, fish sauce, and lime or lemon juice in a bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the garlic, chili, and shallot (if using), and let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

This recipe yields about 2 cups.

A meal without nuoc cham is no meal at all. Served as a dipping sauce with many dishes such as cha gio, spring rolls; banh xeo, sizzling "sound" crêpes; and grilled meats and seafood; it is perhaps the most important sauce you will learn to make. There are several variations on this recipe. If you like your sauce spicier, mince rather than slice the chilies and garlic. Sometimes distilled rice wine vinegar is used to round out the flavor. My aunt Loan likes to slice and add shallots, saying they make the sauce sweeter. Try it different ways, mild or hot, more sweet or sour, with or without shallots. All are interesting. Preceeding is my favorite version, which balances the sweet, sour, and spicy levels. I suggest you make 2 cups, as it goes quickly. Any left over can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

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