Chinese Food

Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam)

Nuoc Cham or Nuoc Mam (often written as “Nuoc Cham” but pronounced “Nua Cham”), is a fermented fish sauce soup, and is a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. It is a natural sauce (and not a paste, as some assume), made by fermenting fish, shrimp, squid, or other seafood with salt and chili peppers. It is often used with rice or another food.

Nuoc Cham is a dipping sauce that is typically served with fresh vegetables, when the food is served fresh off the grill. It is usually served with meats, such as grilled chicken, grilled pork and grilled pork ribs. Nuoc Cham is also popular with many types of seafood dishes, such as grilled shrimp, grilled squid, crab, and scallops.

Nuoc Cham – Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce, also known as Nuoc Mam, is a staple food in Vietnam, where it is a condiment for almost every dish, especially grilled seafood.. Read more about vietnamese fish sauce recipe for vermicelli and let us know what you think.

• Author: Joyce • Published: July 20, 2021 • Modified: July 20, 2021

A simple and fast recipe for Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam) with a mix of sweet, sour, and salty tastes prepared using fish sauce.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam) in a small bowl on a wooden table

If you’ve ever eaten Vietnamese cuisine in a restaurant, with family, or at a friend’s house, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that the small bowls of dipping sauces that come with your fresh and fried spring rolls, grilled meats, and Vietnamese Vermicelli Noodle Bowls are flavor bombs! Nuoc Cham or Nuoc Mam is a Vietnamese dipping sauce composed of fish sauce, and those tiny bowls of liquid gold are what they call it!

If you’ve never tried Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam is a Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce., it’s a light and refreshing garlicky dipping sauce that uses fish sauce, sugar, and fresh lime juice to create a mix of sweet, sour, and salty tastes (or vinegar).

Anyone who has tasted nuoc cham dipping sauce and enjoyed it will most likely have a preference for how they like it. Some individuals like it sourer, while others prefer it sweeter or saltier, and yet others prefer it extremely garlicky! I like mine somewhat sweet and sour with a nice balance of garlic, but the great thing about this sauce is that it’s very simple to adapt to your own taste by just changing the fish sauce (salty), lime juice/vinegar (sour), and sugar (sweet) (the sweet).

Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam) dipping sauce on a table with vegetables and spring rolls

 

NUOC CHAM / NUOC MAM INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam) ingredients laid out on a wooden table

  • Fish Sauce – One of the major components that gives this sauce its umami and salty taste is fish sauce. Squid brand fish sauce (it doesn’t include squid, it’s only in the name) is one of my favorites since it’s simple to obtain and just has three ingredients: anchovy, salt, and sugar. Golden Boy fish sauce is an alternate brand that is a little tougher to come by but has a lot stronger and saltier taste. Keep in mind that each type of fish sauce has a different degree of saltiness, so you’ll have to tweak the recipe to get it just right. If you want to create a vegetarian version of this sauce, replace the fish sauce with soy sauce.
  • Sugar is one of the key components that helps to balance the sweetness of the sauce. If you don’t want to use sugar, honey may be substituted.
  • Garlic – Because garlic is the primary flavor of this sauce, it cannot be skipped or substituted.
  • Lime – This recipe’s acidity comes from the lime. You may also use white or rice vinegar, or combine a little amount of vinegar with the lime juice.
  • Hot Water – The hot water aids in the blending of the salty, sweet, and tart flavors into a more balanced level. It also aids in the sugar’s dissolution.
  • Chili (optional) – Chili peppers provide a kick to this Vietnamese dipping sauce. I prefer to use one birds eye chile since it gives me enough spice without overwhelming the sauce.
  • Carrots (optional) – I add shredded carrots to the sauce to add color and make it seem more appealing. Carrots are an optional ingredient that may be left out.

 

VINEGAR vs. LIME JUICE

When I prepare Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam), I like to use fresh lime juice since it adds an extra dimension of taste. Keep in mind that most Vietnamese dipping sauces served in restaurants are prepared with white vinegar or rice vinegar, which is less expensive to manufacture. There isn’t anything wrong with using vinegar! When I run out of limes at home, I’ll use vinegar instead, but if you want something that tastes more like what you’d receive in a restaurant, vinegar is the way to go. The degree of sourness and taste is one of the major distinctions I detect between using vinegar and fresh lime juice. When compared to fresh lime juice, vinegar is somewhat less sour, while lime juice has a little fruity lime flavor. Use anything you have on hand, or whatever you like! You can mix and match vinegar and lime if you can’t decide between the two!

Limes being squeezed into a bowl for Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam)

 

TO REDUCE THE GARLIC’S GARLICKY SPICY BITE, SOAK IT IN LIME JUICE.

If you’ve ever eaten anything with raw garlic in it, you’ll know that it’s a powerful ingredient. It has a spicier garlic taste and a harsher garlic flavor. Depending on how much garlic you like, soaking it in lime juice for 15 minutes before mixing the rest of the ingredients to create the sauce may actually tone it down a notch.

Serious Eats – How to Tame Garlic’s Pungent Flavor taught me this useful technique. Oh, the wonders of food science!

This is just a personal preference. There’s no need to soak the garlic in lime juice beforehand if you don’t mind the spiciness and strong bite of raw garlic.

A table with sugar and hot water and cut up garlic in preparation for Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam)

VIETNAMESE DIPPING SAUCE SUGGESTIONS

  • When preparing Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam), it’s critical to use hot water to ensure that the sugar dissolves completely and does not settle to the bottom of the sauce.
  • If you’re going to use lime juice in a dish, be sure to use fresh lime juice rather than bottled lime juice; there’s a significant difference in taste between the two.

HOW LONG CAN NUOC CHAM / NUOC MAM BE KEEPED?

The length of time you can keep this depends on whether you use vinegar in the sauce. If you’re just using fresh lime juice, I wouldn’t store it for more than a week or two; it’s best eaten right away. You may store it for approximately 2 months if it contains vinegar. Make careful to keep it refrigerated in an airtight container.

HOW TO USE NUOC CHAM / NUOC MAM IN DIFFERENT WAYS

I use this stuff often, particularly in the summer, so I usually double or treble the amount when I make it. If you have any leftover dipping sauce, here are some ideas on what to serve it with!

  • Fresh rice spring rolls/Deep-fried spring rolls – This dipping sauce is delicious on both fresh and deep-fried spring rolls. Deep-fried spring rolls lose their greasiness, while soft rice spring rolls retain their freshness!
  • Any grilled meats from Vietnam or Thailand – this dipping sauce cuts through the heaviness of any grilled or fatty meat meal and adds a burst of flavor.
  • For satay meat skewers, use it as a lighter alternative to peanut sauce.
  • Use it as a salad dressing since it’s light and flavorful with garlic. If you’re into that, try it as a light salad vinaigrette.
  • Vermicelli bowls with fresh vegetables- This dipping sauce provides wonderful umami tastes to any noodle bowl with a mix of sweet, tart, and salty burst when poured over a vermicelli bowl.
  • Use it in traditional Vietnamese dishes such as Banh Xeo and Banh Cuon. 
  • …the sky’s the limit, so be creative!

Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam) in a small bowl on a table with fresh vegetables and spring rolls

 

INTERESTED IN MORE VIETNAMESE RECIPES? CHECK THESE OUT!

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Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam) dipping sauce on a table with spring rolls

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Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam)

A fast and simple recipe for Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam) with a mix of sweet, sour, and salty tastes prepared using fish sauce.

Time to prepare: 5 minutes

Time to cook: 0 minutes

5 minutes total

Sauce for a Course

Vietnamese cuisine

1 cup of servings

Calories (kcal): 151

INSTRUCTIONS 

  • Peel and carefully cut the garlic cloves. Place it in a mixing basin (or jar if you are making a bigger batch)

  • Cut the lime in halves and pour the juice into the bowl (or jar) with the garlic, allowing it to rest for 10-15 minutes. The strong garlic hot taste will be cut by the acid in the lime juice.

  • After 10-15 minutes, stir in the sugar and boiling water to the garlic/lime juice mixture. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.

  • Mix in the fish sauce once the sugar has dissolved.

  • Voila! The nuoc cham is finished! It may be kept in the refrigerator or eaten straight away!

NOTES

  • My nuoc cham is a little sweeter than most, so it has a sweet and sour taste. Reduce the sugar by 12 tablespoons if you want the sauce to be more sour/tangy.
  • Instead of fresh lime juice, most eateries utilize vinegar. Use vinegar instead of fresh lime juice to make a nuoc mam that resembles those served in restaurants. Fresh lime juice is somewhat more tart than vinegar and has a little more taste, so keep that in mind.
  • Fresh garlic may be soaked in lime juice for 10-15 minutes to lessen the raw bite. The acid gently mellows down the garlic, making it less hot.
  • This recipe may easily be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled.
  • The length of time you can keep this depends on whether you use vinegar in the sauce. If you’re just using fresh lime juice, I wouldn’t store it for more than a week or two; it’s best eaten right away. You may store it for approximately 2 months if it contains vinegar. Make careful to keep it refrigerated in an airtight container.
  • If you’re going to use lime juice in a dish, be sure to use fresh lime juice rather than bottled lime juice; there’s a significant difference in taste between the two.
  •  

NUTRITION

1/4 cup | 151kcal | 37g carbs | 2g protein | 1g fat | 1g polyunsaturated fat | Sodium: 2827mg | Potassium: 116mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 36g | Vitamin A: 5IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg

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Nuoc Cham / Nuoc Mam is a Vietnamese dipping sauce created from fermented fish sauce. It is used commonly in Vietnamese cuisine as a dip for spring rolls, grilled meats, grilled vegetables, rice paper rolls and Vietnamese fried noodles.. Read more about nuoc mam sauce and let us know what you think.

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  • vietnamese dipping sauce without fish sauce
  • vietnamese fish sauce recipe for vermicelli
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  • nuoc mam cham

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