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Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Getting the hang of making this Vietnamese dipping sauce (nước chấm) is an important step to making your cuisine just right. Since it’s just about everywhere in Vietnamese cooking, it’s simply referred to as “dipping sauce”. We keep a stash of premixed sauce ready in the fridge for regular meals throughout the week, but when a special dish is being made, we make a fresh batch for the meal or for the day, and it definitely tastes better.

We used the Goldern Elephant brand fish sauce. Depending on the kind you use, you will need to adjust the amount used due to sodium levels and flavour which can vary from brand to brand. This nước chấm or fish sauce recipe is all about making it to fit your taste.

Commonly eat with

You’ll usually find a bowl of this sauce next to foods like an egg roll, spring rolls or summer rolls, bánh xèo, bánh hỏi, bánh cuốn, grilled meats such as in one of my favourites, grilled pork with rice noodle and veggies, grilled pork chops and fried fish just to name a few.

For different dishes, there are slight variations on this dipping sauce, but we will use this as a base recipe that works great for most things. You can adjust it to your own taste if needed depending on what it’s going with.

Key Ingredients

  • Water – Keep in mind that about half the volume of this sauce is water. So if you’re trying to conserve ingredients, or just not make so much that wouldn’t get used, know that the volume of water you start with, will be half of what you end up within the final sauce.
  • Citrus – Following this recipe exactly each time can produce different results since limes or lemons can vary in liquid, pulp, acidity, etc. But don’t even think about using bottled juice. That stuff tastes slightly muted and missing that amazing fresh citrus oil scent that doesn’t stick around too long.
  • Fish sauce – Slowly add the fish sauce in increments until you gradually reach what the recipe calls for, all the while mixing the sauce and tasting it along the way. After you get used to making this, you can start to tell by the colour of the sauce when you are getting close.
  • Sugar – If you’re trying to dissolve sugar in cold water and it’s too cold it takes a lot longer to fully dissolve, and you can’t adjust ingredients as you go as accurately. Either use a small amount of hot or warm water enough to dissolve the sugar, then fill in the rest with cold or filtered tap water.
  • Optional additions – Add chopped chillies to the sauce if you like. Chillies are a must for us!

How to store them?

You can keep in an airtight jar in the fridge as you work through it, but we make it freshly for some special occasions. While you can fridge nước chấm for about a week, we would recommend using it as soon as possible or making it fresh to savour the pungent taste. The flavour will lessen the longer it stays in the fridge.

Sometimes you’ll see people put their own twists on this recipe. It’s all about making it your own. I’ve seen some recipes that swap out sugar for some other juices. Be creative and make this dipping sauce now!

xoxo, Joe

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

A simple yet delicious recipe for Vietnamese dipping sauce or nước chấm. Make sure to taste as you go and adapt to your own liking.

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp. water

  • 2 tbsp. sugar

  • 1.5 to 2 tbsp. fresh lime or lemon juice

  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce

  • Thai chiles (optional)

Method

  • Combine water and sugar in a bowl. Use warm water for easier dissolving.
  • Add lime or lemon juice in increments until you like how it tastes. A good guide is it should taste like lemonade/limeade.
  • Add fish sauce in small increments until you like how it tastes. It should be a little strong since it goes on unseasoned food.
  • Top with garlic and chilies and serve.

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