Nuoc Cham Vs. Nuoc Mam

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  • If you enjoy eating at Vietnamese restaurants you may have noticed their love of dipping sauces. Dishes like spring rolls are always served with small bowls of spicy sauce. A common question asked by people outside of Vietnam is what’s the difference between nuoc cham and nuoc mam? Keep reading to get the complete answer.

    How do nuoc cham and nuoc mam differ?

    Nuoc cham is the generic term for sauce and could range from soy sauce to fish sauce, chili sauce, or anything in between. Nuoc mam is a popular type of fish sauce served in Vietnamese cuisine that can be pungent, sweet, sour, and spicy in flavor. It is often made by combining fish sauce with water, lime juice, minced garlic, and chili.

    How to make nuoc mam

    This is a recipe to make a flavorful Southeast Asian dipping sauce that takes minutes to ppare with no cooking required.

    Preparation time: 5 mins

    Cook time: 0 mins


    • ¾ cup water
    • 4 Tbsp sugar
    • 4 Tbsp fish sauce
    • 3 Tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
    • 1 Thai chili, finely sliced
    • 1 clove garlic minced


    1. Mix water and sugar in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
    2. Add fish sauce and lime juice and stir until combined.
    3. Sprinkle the sauce with chili and garlic before serving.


    • To help dissolve the sugar, you can heat the water in a microwave for 30 seconds before mixing.
    • Slowly add the citrus juice and fish sauce and taste test as you go to ensure it doesn’t have overwhelming flavor.
    • When serving this sauce with seafood like eel, include lemongrass to brighten the dish.
    • Other ingredients like white radish, green papaya, or shredded pickled carrot can also be served with nuoc mam.

    Did you know? Nước mắm pha means mixed fish sauce. It is the commonest type of dipping sauce that uses fish sauce as its base and includes lime juice or vinegar, water, and sugar. A vegetarian version of this sauce can be made by replacing fish sauce with Maggi seasoning sauce.

    What to serve with nuoc mam pha

    Rice paper rolls (Bánh cuốn): ingredients like pork, prawn, carrot, cucumber, and lettuce are wrapped in sheets of rice noodles.

    Spring rolls (Chả giò): spring roll pastry is filled with ingredients like ground pork shoulder and then deep-fried until crispy.

    Noodles (Bún): cold rice vermicelli noodles topped with grilled pork.

    Rice pancakes (Bánh xèo): pan-fried savory crepes made from water, rice flour, and turmeric, then filled with ingredients like shrimp, bean sprouts, or pork.

    What is in Vietnamese fish sauce?

    Supermarket sold fish sauce generally contains water, anchovies, and sea salt. The version sold in restaurants is more elaborate and often includes water, lime juice, sugar, chili, and garlic.

    How does hoisin sauce and fish sauce differ?

    Fish sauce is a salty sauce made from sea salt, anchovies, and water which has a watery texture. Hoisin sauce is a thick consistency and is made from soybean paste, garlic, sugar, and many other ingredients. While both sauces are salty, hoisin has an additional sweet undertone to it.

    How do I store nuoc mam?

    Nuoc mam is best enjoyed fresh but if you have leftovers then it should last one to two weeks in the refrigerator. Store the sauce in an airtight jar or container at the back of the fridge. Nuoc mam that is made with vinegar rather than lime juice will last longer than. You can expect it to last one to two months before it losing quality.

    Summing up

    Although it may seem that nuoc cham and nuoc mam are the same thing, each has a different meaning and should not be used interchangeably. Nuoc cham is a broader term referring to all types of sauces while nuoc mam is a specific type of dipping sauce that incorporates fish sauce with a range of other ingredients.

    Nate Teague is a food writer who has been working in the food industry for the past decade. He writes for various cooking blogs and has a passion for making fine dining recipes accessible to the at-home cook.

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  • Amount Per 1 Serving



    Kcal (95 kJ)

    Calories from fat

    0.09 Kcal

    % Daily Value*

    Total Fat









    Total Carbs






    Dietary Fiber






    Vitamin C









    Amount Per 100 g



    Kcal (153 kJ)

    Calories from fat

    0.14 Kcal

    % Daily Value*

    Total Fat









    Total Carbs






    Dietary Fiber






    Vitamin C









    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

    Find out how many calories should you eat.

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  • This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure.

    Studded with spicy Thai chilies and fresh garlic, this Vietnamese dipping sauce, or Nuoc Cham, is a staple of Vietnamese cooking – plus it’s ready in 5 minutes!

    Consisting of fish sauce, garlic, chilies, sugar and lime juice, this sauce is the epitome of Vietnamese flavors – it’s sweet, salty, sour and spicy.

    The result is an incredibly flavorful “umami” dipping sauce that is almost drinkable…seriously…it’s that good. Make it ahead and store it in the fridge (in a covered container) as it will last a long time.

    There are only a handful of ingredients used here – fish sauce, lime, coconut (or palm) sugar, garlic and chilies.

    You can use either coconut sugar or palm sugar for this recipe. I love the flavor of palm sugar personally, but coconut sugar works as well. Buy palm sugar HERE on Amazon ( affiliate link).

    Thai chilies can be left out, but I think they impart an incredible spicy flavor to the sauce love to include them. If you can’t find them, you can also thinly slice a serrano pepper and use that.

    Fresh lime juice is a MUST. Do not use bottled lime juice or the flavor will be all wrong. I actually almost never recommend using bottled lime juice as the flavor is so different than fresh.

    What is Fish Sauce?

    Fish sauce is a sauce made from anchovies fermented in salt. While the smell can sometimes be strong, the flavor is out of this world delicious. When added to marinades and sauces, it does not have a fishy flavor as you would expect. It just adds a wonderful savory flavor.

    My favorite fish sauce to use is Red Boat 40

    Check out these 20+ ways to use fish sauce!

    Step By Step Instructions

    They key to this sauce is getting the flavor balance correct. Whisk together the lime juice, water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.

    **for a sweeter sauce like you find in many restaurant in America, reduce the amount of fish sauce to 5 tablespoons.

    Add the chilies and garlic and let it stand for 20 minutes at room temperature before serving. The amount of chilies can be adjusted based on spice pference.

    It’s also incredible served as a dipping sauce for these Vietnamese Egg Rolls or these Chicken Summer Rolls.

    And if you have simple grilled meat, pork, chicken or even seafood, you can just dip it in this sauce for a boost of flavor.

    1. Adjust the amount of chilies to your spice pference. Remember that Thai chilies can be extremely spicy.
    2. Use warm water to help the sugar dissolve.
    3. Add the fish sauce slowly, tasting along the way, until you get the perfect flavor. You may have to add more/less depending on your pference.
    4. For a sweeter nuoc cham, reduce the amount of fish sauce to 5 tablespoons.

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  • Elevate your spring rolls with the most magical Vietnamese condiment of all. This Nuoc Cham Recipe has perfect levels of sour, sweet, salty, savory and spicy!

    Well, it turns out you can make a delicious Vietnamese nuoc cham that will be the star of your dinner in no time flat! Seriously, five minutes in the kitchen is all it takes.

    Today’s post is all about the most magical of Vietnamese condiments. How to make it, what to eat with it and even some culinary pitfalls to avoid.

    If you’ve ever wondered about nuoc cham, this one is for you!

    Nuoc cham is the absolutely delicious Vietnamese dipping sauce that tends to accompany fried spring rolls ( Chả giò), pan fried crepes ( Bánh xèo) and rice noodle dishes ( Bún).

    This ubiquitous condiment is a mixture of fish sauce ( nước mắm), garlic, palm sugar, lime juice, a splash of water and (sometimes) bird’s eye chilis.

    In this home chef’s opinion, the most important element to a good nuoc cham is finding the proper balance of sour, sweet, salty, savory and spicy.

    However from an ingredients perspective, finding and using a good fish sauce – or nuoc mam – is the key to full on flavor!

    I’m a big fan of (a Vietnamese fish sauce). I tend to use it when making dipping sauces, or when the fish sauce will be out front and super noticeable. Biggest drawback though is price. It’s ptty expensive compared to other brands.

    When using fish sauce as an ingredient in a larger composed recipe, I tend to use , or Three Crabs .

    They all differ slightly in saltiness and assertiveness. So, when it comes to finding your pferred brand, there may be a bit of trial and error involved.

    Interesting note: Ben loves fish sauce so much that he lists the salty, briny, whiskey colored liquid as the number one reason he could never go fully vegan.

    Yep, it’s that good!

    Wait, isn’t it all fish sauce?

    What’s the difference between nuoc mam and nuoc cham?

    This bit confused me at one point too.

    Nuoc mam is technically unadulterated fish sauce. Nuoc cham is the dipping sauce we’re making here today (that happens to use nuoc mam as a central ingredient).

    Confused? Not to worry! Hereis a great article on the matter. And here is another!

    Now, let’s get on to the important business… cooking and eating!

    Dissolve in lukewarm water. Then whisk in lime, fish sauce, minced garlic and Thai chiles. I like to let my nuoc cham sit at room temperature for a few minutes so all of the flavors marry well. But that’s an optional step. You can dig in right away if you’d like.

    It doesn’t get much more simple than that!

    How does restaurant style nuoc cham differ from this one?

    Most of the same ingredients tend to be in use when you get your spring roll sauce or dipping sauce for your Vietnamese bun delivered to the table when dining out.

    However, I’ve found – at many Vietnamese restaurants in the States, their nuoc cham recipes can tend to be on the sweeter side. More so than the well balanced mixes I’ve had in Vietnam. That heavy handedness with the sugar can result in a nuoc cham that loses some of it’s natural nuance.

    That said, there’s a place in our neighborhood in Brooklyn that has a nuoc cham sauce so finely tuned, I feel like I’m sitting on a small plastic stool in Hue inhaling my noodles every time we drop in for a bite.

    I’d like to think that my own mixture is closer to a well balanced, authentic nuoc cham – with the fish sauce and chili a bit more forward in the mix.

    You’ll just have to try it and decide for yourself!

    The Vietnamese language is full of rising, falling and flat tones that can render the same word with different meanings depending on the delivery. Getting it right can seem like an impenetrable fortress to someone just getting started.

    For me, I just had to get used to the fact that I’m saying stuff the wrong way when I travel and when I eat out.

    The phonetic spelling is: nɨ́ək tɕə̌m.

    But that doesn’t clear much up, right?!

    To say nuoc cham with something approaching accuracy, say nuoc as ‘nook’ (like the Barnes & Noble e-reader). And say cham as ‘chum’ (like an old friend from your days at school).

    That’s how it was explained to me – and it’s worked at restaurants sufficiently well to this point!

    No matter how you say it, though – the most important thing about food is that it tastes delicious and makes you want more.

    I hope you love this nuoc cham recipe as much as I do – and that it elevates your spring rolls to pro-status!

    Other simple, delicious Vietnamese recipes:

    Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)

    Did you make this recipe?

    Tag @misspickledplum on Instagram and hashtag it #misspickledplum

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  • 4.2







    Das frische Limettendressing Nuoc Cham ist die bekannteste Soße der vietnamesischen Küche. Sie ist Bestandteil in vielen vietnamesischen Gerichten. Sie wird zum Beispiel zu Frühlingsrollen als Dip auf den Tisch gestellt oder beim vietnamesischen Gericht Bun Bo Nam Bo als Soße über das Gericht geträufelt. Die süß-saure Mischung gibt den Speisen einen würzigen und frischen Geschmack. Sie besteht hauptsächlich aus Zitronensaft oder Essig, Fischsoße, Zucker und Wasser.

    Variante 1: Nuoc Cham klassisch zum Dippen

    Die Zutaten für eine Schale zum Dippen:

    • 2 Knoblauchzehen
    • Saft einer Zitrone oder 2-3 Esslöffel Essig
    • 1-2 Esslöffel Fischsoße oder Maggi
    • 2-3 EL Zucker
    • 1 Prise Salz
    • Etwas Wasser
    • 1 Chilischote

    Tipp: Wer möchte, kann der Soße zum Ende noch in feine Ringe geschnittene Lauchzwiebeln hinzugeben.

    Die Zubereitung

    Schritt 1: Zuerst heißes oder warmes Wasser in die Schale geben (ca. 150 ml) und dann den Zucker darin auflösen. Die Fischsoße und den Zitronensaft hinzugeben. Anschließend mit Salz abschmecken.

    Schritt 2: Den Knoblauch fein hacken oder pssen und in die Schale geben. Chilischote kleinschneiden und ebenfalls in die Schale geben. Für weniger Schärfte die Chilischote erst kurz vor dem Servieren hinzugeben und die Kerne entfernen.

    Hinweis: Die Menge der Zutaten ist je nach Geschmack variierbar. Der eine mag es süßer, der andere etwas saurer. Wenn man noch nicht so sicher ist oder die Soße zum ersten Mal zubereitet, sollte man zwischendurch einmal mehr abschmecken und nicht zu viel von allem auf einmal hinzugeben. Gerade die Fischsoße kann den Geschmack der Soße sehr schnell versalzen.

    Ein kleiner Geheimtipp: Man sagt, wenn der Knoblauch am Ende an der Oberfläche schwimmt, ist die Soße perfekt.

    Variante 2: Nuoc Cham als Soße

    Soll Nuoc Cham zu einem Gericht als Soße serviert werden, kommen noch Kohlrabi und Mohrrüben hinzu. Beispielsweise für das Gericht Bun bo nam bo. Die Soße wird dann über die Reisnudeln (bun) gegeben. Das Rohkostgemüse wird dabei in dekorative Formen geschnitten und in der Soße leicht mariniert.

    Die Zutaten für Nuoc Cham mit Kohlrabi und Möhren:

    • 1 Mohrrübe
    • ½ Kohlrabi
    • 2 Knoblauchzehen
    • 2-3 Esslöffel Essig oder 1 Limette
    • 2-3 Esslöffel Zucker
    • 3 Esslöffel Fischsoße oder Maggi
    • 1 Prise Salz
    • 300 ml Wasser
    • 1 Chilischote

    Die Zubereitung

    Die Möhre und den Kohlrabi schälen und in mundgerechte kleine Scheiben schneiden. Zuerst Wasser mit dem Zucker vermengen. Dann Limettensaft und die Fischsoße hinzugeben. Den Knoblauch fein hacken oder pssen und hinzugeben. Die ganze Chilischote in die Soße legen und etwa 1 Stunde ziehen lassen.

    Variante 3: Nuoc Cham für Vegetarier und Veganer

    Für die vegetarische Variante muss nur die Fischsoße ersetzt werden. Eine gute Alternative zur Fischsoße ist Maggi. Die Würzsoße gibt es in jedem Supermarkt. Sie ist nicht nur würzig, sondern auch sehr salzhaltig und kommt damit der Fischsoße geschmacklich sehr nah. Die Soße wird dadurch jedoch etwas dunkler als gewöhnlich. In Vietnam wird die Vegetarische Variante auch Nuoc Cham Chay (vegetarische Soße) genannt oder Nuoc Tuong.

    Natürlich ist diese Variante nicht nur für Vegetarier und Veganer geeignet, sondern auch für diejenigen, die kein Fischsoße mögen, aus gesundheitlichen Gründen darauf verzichten wollen oder aber auch, weil sie allergisch auf Fischsoße reagieren.



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