This dipping sauce is sweet, sour, salty, spicy, garlicky, and an absolute staple in Vietnamese cuisine! Luckily, it’s extremely quick and easy to make. In this recipe, I teach you two different ways to make this iconic sauce – the traditional way and my stronger, more flavorful way!
The Essential Vietnamese Dip
This Nước Chấm is ubiquitous in Vietnamese cuisine. You’ll see it in every Vietnamese restaurant and every Vietnamese household. It practically runs through our veins! The balanced combination of salty, sweet, and sour flavors make this dip a perfect accompaniment to almost any Vietnamese dish. Though you’re most likely to see it served alongside fried egg rolls, it also pairs wonderfully with most rice and noodle dishes.
Depending on what I’m using it for, I have two ways of making this essential Vietnamese dip. If I’m making fried egg rolls or Vietnamese pancakes (Bánh Xèo), I like to stick with the traditional, authentic Nước Chấm recipe. However, if I’m pouring it over a noodle dish or rice platter, I have a much more flavorful modification of the classic sauce that I like to make. I’ve provided both of the recipes below so you can make whichever version suits your needs!
Nước Chấm or Nước Mắm Pha?
You may have seen this classic Vietnamese dipping sauce on the menu or online as either Nước Chấm or Nước Mắm Pha. There is no difference between the two – they’re two different names for the same sauce. Nước Chấm literally translates to “dipping sauce” while Nước Mắm Pha means “mixed fish sauce”. Since the dip mainly consists of fish sauce mixed with a few other ingredients, this title works well too!
My Twist on Authentic Nước Chấm
Traditionally, Nước Chấm is slightly watered down. But if you’re like me and want it stronger and tastier, you can try my variation which has no water at all. This version works especially well when poured over noodles – like in this beef noodle salad – or rice dishes. The strong flavors are distributed throughout the dish and add a zesty tanginess all throughout!
I also like to use palm sugar for my Nước Chấm instead of regular white sugar. Though this is not traditional, I find that it has a milder sweetness than the regular kind as well as an appealing caramel taste, which works better in creating a smoother balance of flavors in the dip.
Since fish sauce is the star of this dip, you should also pay close attention to the quality of fish sauce you buy. Check the ingredients to make sure it has no unnecessary preservatives or flavor enhancers to keep your Nước Chấm as authentic as possible.
How long does Nước Chấm last?
I highly recommend making at least a small jarful of this delicious dipping sauce to keep in the fridge as you’ll surely want to try it on all sorts of dishes. In fact, a jar of Nước Chấm is a common sight in any Vietnamese family’s fridge! It can last 3-4 weeks in the fridge in an airtight container. The flavors from the garlic and chili will infuse into the liquid even more the longer you keep this sauce, so expect it to get better (and stronger) each time.
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce | Nuoc Cham
- 2 tbsp Sugar (I prefer Palm Sugar)
- 2 tbsp Lime Juice or White Vinegar
- 2 tbsp Fish Sauce
- 2-3 gloves Garlic
- 2-3 Chili Peppers
- 4 tbsp Water
- 1 tbsp Sugar In this video I am using palm sugar; palm sugar is usually not traditionally used for this recipe, but I absolutely love the taste of palm sugar; it is sweet but much milder and smoother than regular sugar. Give it a try sometimes. Otherwise, just used regular sugar.
- 1 tbsp Fish Sauce
- 1 tbsp Lime Juice or White Vinegar
- 2 gloves Garlic
- 2 Chili Peppers
If you are going to store a jar of ready-made sauce in the refrigerator, I would recommend using vinegar versus lime juice. Using white vinegar would keep the sauce good in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks easily.
If you are using lime juice, it would last for about 1 week.
Add garlic and chili peppers right before serving versus adding it to your jar. Any fresh ingredients you add to the sauce will decrease its life shelf.