Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce) & Salad


The combination of fish sauce, vinegar & lime juice, and sugar creates a dipping sauce that is simple to make and yet so wonderfully balanced and tasty. A perfect blend of savory, sweet, and sour. \

This recipe also adds to that some garlic and chili, bringing in some spicy bite. If you’re not a fan of one or both, simply omit. This isn’t ordinarily a ferment recipe but I’ve used fermented minced pepper in this sauce with great results.

If you’re like me, you’ll want to start dipping everything in it. Some personal dipping favorites are wings and grilled pho-spiced meatballs. But I also love this sauce used as a base for salad dressing for Vietnamese-inspired salads, explained below. It’s so refreshing and delicious, especially served with heavier foods.

If you’re a vegan, you can substitute the fish sauce with soy sauce (or other umami liquid like coconut aminos) for a very similar and equally delicious sauce.

Yield: ~2.5 fl. oz. Two servings (e.g. as salad dressing or as a dip for wings, spring rolls, meatballs, etc.)

Shelf life: ~3 months, refrigerated

You will need:


Optional for salad dressing: 1/4 tsp sesame oil (it’s not a customary ingredient for this sauce, but if used as a salad dressing it helps the sauce adhere to the salad and gives a nice shiny look)


1.) Mince the garlic and juice the lime.

2.) In the bowl, add the vinegar, fish sauce, and lime juice. Use the spoon (or a small whisk) to blend in the sugar until it is dissolved.

3.) Add the garlic and chili. Stir some more, and transfer to serving or storage container. If creating a salad dressing rather than a dipping sauce, add the sesame oil.


Ideally, give one hour in the fridge for flavors to meld before serving.

For a Vietnamese-inspired salad like the one shown, garnish with sesame seeds, banh mi pickles, lime wedge, and thin-sliced green onion. Include mint, cilantro and basil in the salad.

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