Herby Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

If you want to be able to cook Vietnamese food, then you'll need to master this dipping sauce; it's used in so many dishes to bring all the elements together. However, it can be easily messed up if you get the quantities wrong, and especially if your taste buds are not well versed in balancing the subtle nuances between sour, sweet, salty and spicy.
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 15 min
  • Active: 15 min
  • Yield: 1 cup
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Ingredients

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (preferably Vietnamese; see Cook's Note)

1 small clove garlic, finely minced

1 or 2 small Thai chiles, thinly sliced 

1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 handful Vietnamese coriander leaves (rau ram), finely chopped

Directions

  1. Mix the lime juice, sugar and 100 milliliters (1/2 cup) water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Taste and adjust the flavors if necessary to balance out the sweet and sour. Add the fish sauce, garlic and chiles. Taste again and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing out the sour, sweet, salty and spicy. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature until needed, up to 24 hours. Just before serving, mix in the cilantro and Vietnamese coriander.

Cook’s Note

For this sauce, it is worth seeking out a Vietnamese fish sauce, which is much lighter than the Thai version.