Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce) is a staple in every Vietnamese household. The sweet, salty, umami-rich flavor is the soul of Vietnamese cuisine.
Nước Mắm Chấm (Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce) is by far the most common condiment in Vietnam. Served as a salad dressing, dipping sauce, seasoning, or over rice and noodles, its versatility is unmatched in the condiment world (sorry ketchup lovers).
Having this classic recipe in your repertoire is a must if you enjoy Vietnamese food. Luckily, it's an easy recipe to make with only a few ingredients and zero cook time. Just mix all the ingredients together and enjoy.
Nuoc Cham vs Nuoc Mam, What's the Difference?
Nuoc Mam means "fish sauce," the dark amber colored, concentrated, salty fish sauce you find in a bottle. Nuoc Mam also refers to a prepared dipping fish sauce that uses Nuoc Mam as its primary flavoring, diluted with water, sugar and something acidic, such as vinegar or lime juice. It can be confusing for the word to have double meaning but generally when you're asking for Nuoc Mam, people know which version you're asking for depending on the application.
Nuoc Cham directly translated means "dipping sauce." However, Nuoc Cham could refer to a variety of dipping sauces. Asking for Nuoc Cham would require clarification as to the type of dipping sauce. So for this recipe, one way we could call it is Nuoc Mam Cham so that we're specifying the type of dipping sauce.
How Do You Use Nuoc Mam Cham?
Vietnamese food is often accompanied with a side of Nuoc Mam Cham. What do you do with it?
BBQ Rice Dish: A light drizzle over the rice instantly turns your bland rice into something special.
Vietnamese Egg Rolls: Use it as a dipping sauce. Ask the server for your own little dish of Nuoc Mam Cham so you can double dip!
Bun (Vietnamese Cold Rice Noodles): Give a generous drizzle over the entire bowl, mix it well and enjoy.
Vietnamese Chicken Salad: Use it as a dressing for a cool summer salad loaded with fresh aromatics.
How To Make Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce
I like to mix the ingredients directly in a small mason jar. Having a lid makes it easy to store in the fridge and also makes mixing a cinch.
Start by combining fish sauce, water, sugar and white vinegar (or lime juice). Mix well (or give the jar a good shake) until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add minced garlic and sliced chilis and give it a quick stir to combine.
The Vietnamese Dipping Sauce is ready to use as soon as the sugar has dissolved, though I find it tastes better when it has a chance to rest. This allows the garlic to infuse its flavors into the fish sauce. An hour is sufficient, but overnight is even better.
How Long Can You Store Nuoc Mam Cham?
Nuoc Mam Cham can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for about a month when made with vinegar. I tend to make this recipe with vinegar for this reason and also because I always have vinegar in my pantry. If you're using lime juice, it'll last about a week in the fridge.
If you'd like to extend the shelf life of your Vietnamese Dipping Sauce even further, omit the fresh ingredients like garlic and chilis and add them when you're ready to use it.
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1.5 tablespoon white vinegar, or lime juice
- 1.5 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup water
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1-3 thai chilis, optional
- Combine fish sauce, white vinegar, sugar and water. Mix well until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Add the garlic and chilis and give it a quick stir to combine.
- That's it! Wasn't that simple?