I realized that if I am going to share Vietnamese recipes, I need to include some basics like nước chấm. Nước chấm is Vietnamese dipping sauce that is fish sauce (nước mắm) based. Actually, at home, we just call it nước mắm. Don't be scared by the strong fish sauce odour. Once it is diluted, it is very good.
There are many different Vietnamese dipping sauces for specific dishes, but nước chấm is the most widely used. I think nước chấm has what is most fundamental of Vietnamese cuisine: a balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy. It is sometimes more diluted, or more sweet depending on the dishes and taste. So this is a good basis for nước chấm, but please adjust to taste.
Nước Chấm (1 cup) - Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce
We used to add a crushed garlic clove but there's garlic in Vietnamese chili sauce.
* 3-½ Tbsp nước mắm - fish sauce (or soy sauce)
* 3 Tbsp sugar
* 1 cup water
* ¼ lime
* 1 tsp Vietnamese chili sauce or Samba Oelek (or chopped fresh chilis, like bird's eye chili peppers)
Mix the sugar with water (warm water helps dilute the sugar more quickly).
Add fish sauce and chili sauce.
Squeeze some lime juice.
Adjust to taste.
To make this vegetarian: Simply replace the fish sauce with soy sauce!
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