This Nước Chấm* ['no-ook chaw- awm'] is a very easy sauce to make and it tastes just like the kind I had when I was traveling in Viet Nam. This is commonly referred to as prepared fish sauce.
This should not be confused with Nước Mắm** ['no-ook maw- awm'] which is just fish sauce. When I go to a Vietnamese restaurant, I always ask for Nước Chấm. If you ask for 'Nước Mắm' you will get fish sauce either by itself, OR the equivalent of fish sauce poured directly from the bottle and a couple of carrot sprigs and chilies added in for garnish.
I have seen other versions of 'prepared fish sauce' at the grocery store [and they'll work in a pinch]- but they usually fall short especially when I am nostalgic for authentic Nước Chấm.
Here I am making traditional Vietnamese Dipping Sauce served as with almost any meal in Viet Nam.
Although this is generally considered a dipping sauce - I also use it as a typical marinade for meat, sauce for stir frys, soups, and pasta dishes. I have also used it as a dressing for salads and sandwiches.
I will share the 'recipe' I learned when I first returned to Viet Nam in 1999. I use the term recipe loosely because it seemed that our measuring was purely subjective, such as a pinch of this, etc.
In addition to its simplicity - there are additional benefits:
~ easy to make in bigger batches
~ can make ahead of time
~ freezes well
~ has a long shelf life
~ can be easily adapted to one's dietary needs/preferences
Step 1: Easy to Make Authentic Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nước Chấm)
All ingredients can be found at most local bigger franchise grocery stores. Though, if you have the fortune of having an international food store near you- its absolutely fun and worth exploring their aisles.
The ingredients you see pictured here can certainly be substituted - and items do not need to be name brand. These are brands I tend to have consistently on hand; I have had success replicating the recipe with various substitutions as needed/desired. I will say that fresh ingredients are always better for full flavor.
*Yield: ~ less than 1/2 cup
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp granulated white sugar (brown, maple or coconut sugar)
2 tbsp juice from 1 fresh lemon (limes or oranges)
1-2 cloves of diced garlic
small handful of grated carrots- [aesthetic function not necessarily about taste]
a couple of pinches of diced unsalted peanuts
a few small diced pieces of a red chili pepper
*This is why I tend to make a larger batch using the ratio. You would of course increase the garlic, peanuts and chili according to preference.
When I make a bigger batch I usually change my ratios to 2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup fish sauce, 1 cup lemon juice. and 4 or 5 cloves of garlic.
Step 2: Easy to Make Authentic Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nước Chấm)
A word of caution regarding fish sauce [straight from the bottle]: if you haven't worked with fish sauce before, you need to know that it stinks to high heaven. In fact, I often liken the smell to finding a set of "over-used stinky gym clothes that were left in the locker all summer and were found at the return of the school year." Yeah, that bad. No, probably worse! So, to that end, you DON'T want to spill any of it anywhere! You want to rinse/clean whatever dishes immediately after so the stench won't be lingering on those utensils/dishes, etc.
Now you understand the need for fish sauce to be PREPARED to consume. ;) You will be amazed at how your end product [Nước Chấm] is SOOO different from what comes straight from the bottle [Nước Mắm]!
On to preparations...your ratio of water to fish sauce to lemon juice to sugar should be about: 2:1:1:1
Everything else will ultimately be to taste and you will find yourself altering as such. The 'recipe' below should be considered a good starter or base and would be the typical flavor profile you would find in Viet Nam or a high end Vietnamese restaurant in the states.
1. Combine all ingredients and mix.
2. After combined, you can serve it immediately!
That said, the longer it sits, the better it tastes; even 15-30 min is substantial to impact the flavor.
By its nature, fish sauce is very salty. This recipe is a base and invites you to adjust according to preference. I have always played around with the flavor profiles to meet the needs/preferences of my guests.
3. Feel free to adjust the taste by adding more of the preferred flavor you are seeking: sweet, salty, sour, spicy!
NOTE: the longer it sits, the stronger the flavors! It is fully expected you will have/want to adjust according to your flavor preferences any time you return to use it;)
Step 3: Easy to Make Authentic Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nước Chấm)
Here are a couple of Instructables to the most common Vietnamese dishes Nước Chấm is served with
Vietnamese pancake/crepe -Bánh-Xèo [the dish pictured above with Nước Chấm]
Ginger- equivalent to garlic amount
Also, once again, don't be afraid to adjust the amounts of ingredients to meet your preferences of salty, spicy, garlicky, sour, etc.
Remember, this is a very versatile sauce: Use it as a typical marinade for meat, sauce for stir frys, soups, and pasta dishes, or as a dressing for salads and sandwiches.
Thanks for checking out my first attempt at an instructable! Happy Eating!