Nuoc Mam Cham is Vietnam’s ubiquitous all purpose dipping sauce, where every Vietnamese family has their own heavily guarded family recipe.
It is served with just about every meal, and goes with just about anything. It is a national icon, so much so that Vietnamese food tastes bland without it. People pour it over their rice and noodles, over their vegetables as a salad dressing, as a dipping sauce for meats and fish. Without it, Vietnamese food isn’t food.
The hero of the dipping sauce is Fish sauce, or Nuoc Mam in Vietnamese, is pungent, sweet, salty and full of flavour, derived from anchovies. This is then put into large wooden barrels with water and salt for several months and slowly pressed. The result, is a golden brown liquid similar in colour to golden syrup, but smells and tastes like nothing on this planet. But combine it with water, lime juice, sugar, chilli and loads of garlic and it becomes something special.
I have provided my mum’s nuoc mam cham recipe, but every family has their own version. Some even go as far as putting coconut water instead of regular water for a bit more richness.
Recipe for Nuoc Mam Cham
300mls of warm water
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 finely chopped chilli (less if you like it mild)
1 tablespoon of sugar
Combine everything together and adjust to your own taste and level of heat. Refrigerate for up to a month in an old jar