Everyone has their own way of making nuoc cham. You can also make it heavier or lighter on fish sauce depending on what you're serving it with. This is a basic recipe that you can tweak to your own taste.
Try to use premium fish sauces for this dipping sauce - I prefer Three Crabs brand fish sauce. Flying Lion is also good. Other lesser brands like Squid are better used in cooked dishes where you're not using much and it's less prominent. In nuoc cham, you'll really taste the fish sauce so it's better to use the more premium brands.
If you want to make a large batch that you can store in the fridge for a few days or a week, use distilled white vinegar instead of lime juice so it keeps longer.
Nuoc cham, Vietnamese dipping sauce
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
- 2-3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
- 6 Tbsp. lime juice or distilled white vinegar
- 4 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup water
- 5 Tbsp. fish sauce, nuoc mam
- 1/2 tsp. chili sauce - sambel oelek, tuong ot, or Sriracha, more to taste
Mix lime juice or vinegar with sugar and garlic and let sit for about 5 minutes. Then add water, fish sauce and chili sauce and combine well, ensuring that sugar is completely dissolved. You can tinker with more sugar, fish sauce, water, lime juice or white vinegar, or chili to your own taste.