Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce)

nuoc mam cham, fish sauce, dipping fish sauce

Some might wonder if nuoc mam (fish sauce) runs in the veins of Vietnamese people. Indeed it is almost synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine and is used as a flavoring agent, dipping sauce, and dressing for countless dishes. The basic components of dipping sauce are fish sauce, lime juice, water, crushed garlic, and chiles. There are numerous variations on the quantities as well as additions (such as ginger) but ultimately, it depends on your personal preference so feel free to experiment.


nuoc mam
Good idea to store nuoc mam in a 2 lt bottle? Find out below..

Nuoc Mam Cham (Dipping Fish Sauce)
Printable Recipe

  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon rice or plain vinegar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 hot chile pepper or Jalapeno (at least)
  • 3 clove of garlic, use more or less according to taste
  • ~1/8 cup fish sauce, adjust to taste
  • pickled carrots and daikon, optional.
  • Rooster brand chile garlic sauce (optional)

Add water and sugar to mix well to dissolve. You can heat the water up before hand to make it dissolve quickly. Add lime juice and vinegar (optional). It should taste like a very very bland lime-ade. If you have a morter, crush the garlic and chiles (if not, finely mince them) together and add to the mixture. Finally, slowly add the fish sauce a few tablespoons at a time instead of all at once. Taste frequently and stop when you feel it’s just right. It’s much easier to adjust the flavor of the dipping sauce by adding the fish sauce at the end bit by bit, adjusting to your personal taste. For a deeper red color, add some chile garlic sauce. You can also add pickled carrots and daikon into the nuoc mam cham as well.

Coming from Vietnam, everything was valuable. Our parents didn’t want to part with anything and 2-L bottles were commonly used in our family to store large quantities of nuoc mam. One day, my cousin came home after a long day of grueling football practice looking for some ice cold soda to quench his thirst… he grabbed the first soda bottle in the fridge he saw and took a huge gulp, and immediately his eyes bulged, his mouth puckered, and out flew the nuoc mam with a scream of utter shock….you would think that my parents would be sympathetic, but no–he was strictly admonished for wasting a good bottle of nuoc man….

nuoc mam
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49 Responses to “Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce)”

  1. 1

    Hummingbird Appetite — June 14, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

    That's hilarious that your cousin accidentally drank fish sauce!

  2. 2

    The Food Addicts — June 16, 2009 @ 3:37 am

    I did a post on nuoc mam awhile back too… it's my mom's recipe which she taught me. She also uses chili paste to give it the reddish color… here's the link
    btw, i'll be trying your nem nuong recipe soon! can't wait!!!

  3. 3

    Anh — June 16, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

    I think one of my cousin drank fish sauce by accident, too. 😛 And oh yes, nuoc cham is so wonderful. Do you know that the Hanoian varies the flavours of nuoc cham a bit for different dishes? 🙂

  4. 4

    lauren — June 25, 2009 @ 3:15 am

    My 7-year-old daughter, who loves fish and soy sauce, took a dare from my brother to drink a tablespoon of fish sauce straight up. She did, and won $1. But two minutes later I hustled her into the bathroom where she had her first grown-up (into the toilet) vomit!

  5. 5

    lauren — June 25, 2009 @ 3:17 am

    And thank you for all the wonderful recipes including the still-beloved fish sauce! We visited Vietnam a few months ago and I came home craving the food even more than before.

  6. 6

    Ravenous Couple — June 25, 2009 @ 3:52 am

    Hummingbird Appetite: It's happens more commonly than you think!

    Food addicts: Yup! Chili paste definitely gives it more color. We pretty much use whatever chili we have on hand.

    Anh: We love all the variations of nuoc mam…esp nuoc mam gung (ginger)…can't get enough of that eating bun mang vit!

    Lauren: thank you for sharing that story…i'm sure she'll be able to tell that story to her friends for years to come. We're glad you like our recipes. Please let us know if you make something–take a picture and we'll post it. We'll keep on cooking if you keep on commenting 🙂

  7. 7

    HoustonWok — September 9, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

    holy smokes!!! Look at the swirling Nuoc Mam, GREAT picture! Starred at it for so long I got dizzy.

  8. 8

    Ravenous Couple — September 10, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

    houstonwok: Glad someone noticed the hypnotizing artistry on that shot! Thanks!

  9. 9

    Anonymous — October 20, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

    This sauce is awesome but my question is how long and where to store the 2L bottle.

  10. 10

    Ravenous Couple — October 21, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

    anonymous: you should store nuoc mam in the fridgerator and it lasts pretty much indefinitely 🙂

  11. 11

    Anonymous — October 21, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

    I remember always pounding the garlic and pepper and sugar together in a mortar then adding lime, then water, then finally the fish sauce. All the flavors seemed to meld better that way, rather than with chopped garlic.

  12. 12

    Ravenous Couple — October 21, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

    anonymous: every family has their way of making nuoc mam–you're absolutely right, using a morter and pestle would add more flavor.

  13. 13

    Ms. Sunshine — January 27, 2010 @ 5:54 pm

    Hahahaha…Poor cousin. And your parents were right, you should never waste a bottle of nuoc mam! 😀

  14. 14

    Ms. Sunshine — January 27, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

    And hey, not just HoustonWok, I saw the swirling of sauce, too! Very creative.

  15. 15

    .caroline armelle. — February 24, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

    wow! i'm so glad i found your blog..

    it's just what i've been looking for to make some of these amazing vietnamese recipes!

    it will be nice to be able to see the name with the picture. the only vietnamese i know is the name of my favorite dishes..
    and, please post a recipe for banh beo… that would be amazing!

  16. 16

    OldFatRetiredMarriedGuyFromOrygun — April 3, 2010 @ 7:41 am

    A late answer to anonymous:This sauce is awesome but my question is how long and where to store the 2L bottle.

    The life span of Nuoc mam is not so much measured in days or months, but in generations 🙂
    I discovered some in the pantry a couple years old. I gave it a try and it was just fine. So Nuoc mam and twinkies never expire.

    This is the best asian cooiking blog ever !

  17. 17

    Ravenous Couple — April 5, 2010 @ 2:32 am

    Ed: Nuoc mam is Vietnamese gold, another similarity to the color of twinkies 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words!

  18. 18

    Kacey — April 27, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

    I'm thrilled to have stumbled upon your blog. I'll be making spring rolls and this dipping sauce this week for a dinner party! Thanks!

  19. 19

    Ravenous Couple — April 28, 2010 @ 9:13 am

    kasey: thanks for visiting our blog..have a great time with all the cooking and do let us know how things turn out!

  20. 20

    Alan — May 31, 2010 @ 1:01 am

    Thank you very much for your fantastic recipes. I've been especially looking for a good recipe for thit nuong, and yours is really great.

  21. 21

    amish baby cribs — March 1, 2011 @ 3:35 am

    What a very cool fish sauce this is. It is really different from the usual fish sauces at home.

  22. 22

    Super Sexy Six Inch Summer Springrolls | La Pham Nikita — June 18, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

    […] favorite special sauce (I like the traditional Vietnamese fish sauce but of course there’s peanut sauce, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce options […]

  23. 23

    Erich — June 19, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

    Is this the same dipping sauce they use at Vietnamese restaurants for grilled pork?

  24. 24

    The Ravenous Couple — June 20, 2011 @ 8:34 am

    yes, it’s the same nuoc mam cham for bun thit nuong

  25. 25

    Anger Burger » Blog Archive » Banh Mi Burgers — July 10, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

    […] patties: 1 lb ground beef OR 1/2 lb each beef and pork 2 Tbsp nuoc cham (again, The Ravenous Couple’s version is my go-to) 1/4 cup finely chopped […]

  26. 26

    Joann — August 17, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

    We followed your Bo Luc Lac recipe to a T and it’s the BEST we’ve ever had! Thank you, thank you. Today we are attempting Banh Boc Loc. BTW, that’s hilarious about your poor cousin but I would’ve scolded him for wasting good nuoc mam too 🙂

  27. 27

    The Ravenous Couple — August 18, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    thanks so much and like us on Facebook to post your photos!

  28. 28

    Le Saigonnais…Upscale Vietnamese in New Westminster « The Friday Lunch — November 25, 2011 @ 12:52 am

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  29. 29

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  30. 30

    Cheese with Noodles — May 15, 2012 @ 1:14 am

    Great post about nuoc mam cham! I feel so bad for you cousin for drinking it, what a shock! Bad enough just taking a sip of water only to find out it’s Sprite. Anyway, I mentioned your blog in my post about spring rolls 🙂 Here’s the link if you are interested: Going to go check out the rest of your blog!

  31. 31

    Susan Tran — May 28, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

    I totally happened to me when I was a kid!! My brothers and I were playing and came inside for a cool refreshing drink. My mom had stored homemade dish sauce in a Coca-Cola bottle. Being a greedy person I snatched the bottle out of brother’s hand and took a giant swig….

  32. 32

    The Ravenous Couple — May 29, 2012 @ 10:56 am

    hilarious! glad you survived

  33. 33

    recipe: homemade bánh mì sandwich | Café Zupas — June 7, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

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  34. 34

    Aloha Spirit — June 9, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    OMG! I just made your yummy sauce and that’s the first thing I thought of AND said!!! I am not Vietnamese — thank you for letting me pretend that I am. I am in love with Vietnamese food.

  35. 35

    Sapurah Lashari — August 13, 2012 @ 9:36 am

    This is the best nuoc mam cham recipe ever! I am not Vietnames but have had the pleasure of trying authentic Vietnamese food in Hanoi and this is truly authentic! Thank you for sharing.

  36. 36

    Alex — October 13, 2012 @ 6:10 am

    Hey, how long can u keep the sauce for once its made..?

  37. 37

    The Ravenous Couple — October 16, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

    in the fridge, almost indefinately. jk, we use it constantly so it runs out fast, but easily a month

  38. 38

    Reese Clark — May 2, 2013 @ 8:32 am

    How long will nuoc mam pha last in the fridge?

  39. 39

    Reese Clark — May 2, 2013 @ 8:32 am

    Sorry I just saw Alex’s comment…don’t mind me…love your website!

  40. 40

    suki — May 27, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

    best nuoc ever…thank you!

  41. 41

    Bò nhúng dấm recipe — September 23, 2013 @ 8:01 am

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  42. 42

    vietnamese rolls | Salty Sour Sweet Inc. — February 20, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

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  43. 43

    Bò Nhúng Dấm | Vietnam Blog — July 7, 2014 @ 8:38 am

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  45. 45

    Viet California — May 29, 2015 @ 2:34 pm

    Thanks for share

  46. 46

    homemade bánh mì sandwiches … | Armelle Blog — January 18, 2016 @ 12:56 pm

    […] and fresh cilantro.  It is also great with a little hit of fish sauce (nuoc cham, click here for a recipe) If you aren’t a Bánh Mì yet, then trust me, it doesn’t take long to […]

  47. 47

    JC — November 14, 2016 @ 10:05 pm

    Hello! Do you know what dipping salt people use with mangoes? My friends cut some for us and used a dipping salt, but I don’t know what it is or where to buy it. Thanks!

  48. 48

    The Ravenous Couple — November 16, 2016 @ 1:37 pm

    for green sour mango it’s fish sauce, sugar and red chili. try 1:1 ratio of fish sauce and sugar. otherwise it’s salt and crushed chilis.

  49. 49

    Diem Pham — February 18, 2017 @ 3:26 pm

    My husband knows a few Vietnamese words here and there. One day, as we left a pho restaurant, he said “Nuoc Mam!” and walked out a few minutes later. I was like, Okaaaayyyy…. We got in the car and I asked why he needed to ask for fish sauce? He looked confused and asked what I meant. I went through the motions of explaining it and he said, “Oh, nuoc mam isn’t ‘thank you’?”
    My entire family greets him with “Nuoc Mam!” when they see him these days. LOL

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