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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.
- Adjust the amount of chilies to your spice pference. Remember that Thai chilies can be extremely spicy.
- Use warm water to help the sugar dissolve.
- 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.
- For a sweeter nuoc cham, reduce the amount of fish sauce to 5 tablespoons.
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