• Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This is a recipe the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce from Andrea Nguyen, author of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, who suggests adding more lime juice, fish sauce or sugar to suit your taste and achieve your preferred balance of sour, sweet and salty.


Video: Andrea Nguyen makes Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce at The Linney Kitchen Studio


  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (2 or 3 limes)

  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar (optional)

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 2/3 cup lukewarm water

  • 5 to 6 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 2 or 3 Thai or serrano chiles, thinly sliced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)



1. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar, sugar, and water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste and adjust the flavors to balance the sweet and sour as needed.


2. Add the fish sauce, starting out with 5 tablespoons and then adding more as your palate dictates, balancing the sour, sweet, and salty. How much fish sauce you use depends on the brand and your own taste. Aim for a light honey or amber color and a bold, forward finish. Keep in mind that this sauce is typically used to dress dishes that include unsalted ingredients like lettuce and herbs-ingredients that will need an extra flavor lift. When you're satisfied, add the chiles and garlic. (If diners are sensitive to chile heat, serve the chiles on the side.)


3. Put the sauce on the table so that diners can serve themselves, or portion it out in advance for serving. It may be prepared early in the day and left at room temperature until serving.


Note: When using both garlic and chiles in the sauce, try pounding them together with a pinch of sugar in a mortar. This quickly releases their oils (helpful if you are in a hurry) and gives the sauce an appealing orange cast.

Andrea Nguyen
Andrea Nguyen is an author, freelance writer and cooking teacher. She is the author of several cookbooks, including Into the Vietnamese Kitchen (a finalist for a James Beard award for Best Asian Cookbook and winner of two IACP award nominations), Asian Dumplings and Asian Tofu. Her writing has appeared in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bon Appetit and Saveur, where she serves a contributing editor.