Nuoc mam cham is a simple Vietnamese dipping sauce made with rice vinegar, fish sauce, and sweetened with sugar that does double duty as a tasty salad dressing.
Just as Italy is known for it’s olive oil with balsamic vinegar, and Greece for it’s tzatziki, every culture has a dipping sauce that makes it’s signature mark. Vietnam is no exception.
This easy recipe for nuoc cham Vietnamese dressing and dipping sauce turns a bowl of rice noodles with raw veggies into a spectacularly slurpable flavor bomb and it’s the last touch of zest when Vietnamese spring rolls pass your lips.
It may take a minute to figure out nuoc cham’s pronunciation when ordering at a restaurant, but once you make it at home, you’ll see this sauce is easy to master.
What Ingredients Are In Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)
Now, don’t get all freaked out about one of the main ingredient of nuoc cham … fish sauce.
First question: What is fish sauce? Fish sauce is simply fermented fish that has broken down to become a tangy, funky sauce. It’s flavor is salty, earthy, a little bit caramel-y sweet, and totally distinct. A good quality, fish sauce hardly tastes fishy at all, and adds the unique salty bite that can’t be imitated by substituted ingredients in Vietnamese and Thai cooking.
When choosing fish sauce, always choose a high quality fish sauce that hasn’t been left opened in your cupboard for too long (the fishy flavor will become more pronounced.) And know that smaller quantities of the sauce goes a long way.
This is my favorite brand of quality fish sauce. It can be found online or at many Asian grocery stores.
Every great dressing needs an acid for balance. I use seasoned rice vinegar instead of regular rice vinegar because it already has a little sugar in it and I like it best for salad dressings. However, if you prefer to have more control over the amount of sugar in the dressing, use regular rice vinegar and add more or less sugar I’ve listed in the recipe to your taste.
Also, beware of confusing rice vinegar with rice WINE vinegar. This is how they’re different, producing very different tastes.
You can also add grated carrot or onion to the sauce for presentation or a squeeze of lime for more acid.
Recipes to Make With Vietnamese Dressing and Dipping Sauce
- Fresh And Easy Vietnamese Noodle Salad
- Grilled Shrimp Vietnamese Spring Rolls
- Vietnamese Curry Chicken And Rice Noodle Salad Bowl
- Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad Bowls with Berries
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Vietnamese Dressing and Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)
- ½ cup fish sauce
- ½ cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cloves garlic pressed or minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- In a bowl or a glass jar fitted with a lid, whisk the fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and crushed red pepper until the sugar dissolves. Use as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or as a dressing for Vietnamese noodle salads. Refrigerate for up to 3 months.
More Vietnamese Recipes to Make Now
- Chicken Satay With Lighter Almond Dipping Sauce
- Cheesy Shrimp And Grits Banh Mi In A Waffle Cone
- Asian Marinade Master Sauce
- How To Make An Easy Asian Hot Pot
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Heidi, I found your recipe as a top hit when searching for a fish sauce based sauce.
It’s unfortunate that you are centering western cultures, and ultimately whiteness, through the way in which you speak of this Vietnamese condiment. Fish sauce and other more “ethnic” ingredients are not scary and framing them this way only perpetuates discourses in which non white cultural foods are second class, or disgusting.
I assume that your audience is largely white and middle upper class, so you may not get much constructive criticism. But I hope that moving forward you will consider the care taken in how you speak about ingredients and foods that don’t belong to your experience. The more we normalize honouring the story of foreign foods we enjoy, without mocking pronunciation and comparing them to Italian sauces, the more we can connect to a wider audience through enjoying and sharing food.
Thanks for reading
Thanks for this simple recipe. It is an awesome sauce.