Like an heirloom, every Vietnamese household has their own version of dipping fish sauce (or nuoc mam cham). The fish sauce you find at the grocery store is raw, strong in taste and smell. Add sourness, sweetness, spiciness and you get something that can enhance any meal.
When I first got married, I have no clue how to make the perfect blended fish sauce. I always asked my sister in law (Thao) to make me a batch of dipping fish sauce every time we have people over for vermicelli or for spring rolls. And she is well known for making the best dipping sauce in the family. As I followed my sis in law and mother in law around the kitchen, I’ve learned some tips and tricks in making the best fish sauce. I’m sharing my own version of fish sauce. The perfect fish sauce is always a work in progress, so get started now!
Rule of thumb: Use the 1:1:2
My sis in law (Thao) – her rule of thumb is the 1:1:2 ratio, meaning 1 part fish sauce, 1 part sugar or lime juice (more on that later) and 2 part water (more on that later).
Every single time I asked Thao for a recipe for dipping fish sauce, she always matter-of-factly replied, “You don’t have to be exact, but follow the ratio and adjust to your preference.”
We use 1 part of fish sauce, 1 part of white sugar and 2 part of water.
The 2 part water is a combination of water, lime juice, (or vinegar) and coconut water (or coconut soda).
Regular water verses boiling water
While Thao uses regular water or sometimes bottle water for her fish sauce, my mother in law uses hot water. She stated that hot water (or even boiling water) will “cook” the fish sauce and brings out more flavors. Both work well and for my own version I used hot water.
Vinegar verses lime juice
While vinegar has a better fridge life than lime juice, in our household we only use lime juice for a better and fresher flavor.
This sweet, sour, salty fish sauce is perfect for vermicelli, rice dishes, or spring rolls, etc.
Nuoc mam cham plays an essential part in many Vietnamese dishes. I hope you’ll give it a try.
Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce ( Nuoc Mam Cham)
The famous Vietnamese dipping sauce to serve on spring rolls, vermicellis, or savory pancakes.
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 bird eye chillis (minced)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup fish sauce I love the 3 crabs brand
- 1/4 cup hot water
- juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons coco rico soda (or coconut water)
Combine sugar and fish sauce in a bowl. Add in hot water and stir until sugar is fully dissolved.
Adjust according to your taste. Add more lime juice if you like it on the sour side, or more sugar if you like it on the sweeter side.
If storing for later use, don't add in garlic and chilis. Add in chilis, minced garlic right before serving.