Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce - Nước Mắm Chấm
Easy - you got this
Nước mắm chấm is a dipping sauce that has the power to elevate any Vietnamese dish and possesses a flavour that is solely identifiable to Vietnam and its culture. A sauce that is savoury, yet sweet, sour, and spicy is one that many struggle to master consistently, due to the difficult task of balancing its conflicting main ingredients: fish sauce, vinegar and citrus.
Using the right fish sauce base plays an important role in finding that unique balance in nước mắm chấm. A fish sauce that’s too salty will demand a greater ratio of acidity and sugar, whereas a fish sauce that is low on salt but high in umami will require less offsetting and result in a dipping sauce that is mellow, yet retaining its deep and bold characteristics. For this reason I am quite particular, and there are only a few fish sauce brands that I will use.
Mum has always taught me that nước mắm needs to be made in a mortar and pestle to achieve the desired flavours and its vibrant colour. Grinding and pounding with a mortar and pestle extracts the essential oils from the garlic and chilli but also gives the sauce an inviting orange glow. Mum also uses a combination of limes and vinegar to complete her Nước mắm. In recent years, I’ve substituted vinegar with apple cider vinegar ─ to her approval! ─ and now claim it as my secret nước mắm ingredient.
Apple cider vinegar compared to white vinegar has lower acetic acid content, resulting in a smoother, less sour profile. Even if you’re already confident with your nước mắm recipe, do yourself a favour and grab a bottle of apple cider vinegar and try it for yourself. You will see how this simple twist can round off your nuoc mam’s flavour!
3 birds eye chillies (De-seeded for a mild nuoc cham or omit for a kid-friendly nuoc mam)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of sugar
25ml of hot water
25ml of cold water
1 tablespoon of lime juice
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
In a small mixing bowl add sugar and dissolve with hot water.
In mortar and pestle, crush and pound chillies and garlic into a paste. Alternatively, if you do not have a mortar and pestle, finely chop chilli and garlic then add to the small mixing bowl along with remaining ingredients.
Add lime, apple cider vinegar, fish sauce, and dissolved sugar water then mix well.
Add cold water and mix well.
Use immediately or store in air tight container and refrigerate for up to 3 months.