Vietnamese Chili Sauce – Nuoc Cham

This is one of my favorite sauces. It is delicious, versatile, and super easy to make. One trip to your local asian market and you should have everything that you need. Actually, these days, the only thing that a regular market won’t have is the fish sauce which, unfortunately, is a key ingredient to all of these dipping sauces.

One of the other variations of this sauce that you see all the time is Nuoc Mam Gung, or ginger dipping sauce. Just remove the Sambal Olek and add one dried chili and a heaping Tablespoon of finely minced Fresh garlic root to the other ingredients.

This sauce is fantastic with any barbecued meats. It is sweet and mildly spicy with a hint of vinegar, a perfect compliment to Bbq.

I first came across this sauce on a trip to Vietnam in 2000. At every meal there would be a small soy dish filled with just the chili’s, sugar, and lime juice. It was like ketchup. You could put it on anything that you were eating. The other favorite thing I encountered on that trip was Club Soda with lime and sugar. Incredibly refreshing in the 100° heat. This was also the trip where I had one of my top ten meals ever sitting on kiddie play school plastic furniture on the street in saigon. We told the lady to bring us whatever she wanted, and by the time we were done the meal had included wild boar, steaming bowls of pho, whole fried birds, rau mung watercress, clay pot chicken and coconut pudding for desert. It was the decor that did it though. We had to wait for a kiddie table as well, it was packed.


1/2 Tablespoon Sambal Olek chili paste or 4 dried or fresh red chilies
2 garlic cloves
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Tablespoons water


Combine all ingredients together in a container. If you use the Sambal Olek, it has vinegar in it. If you use the dried or fresh chilies add about 1/2 Tablespoon of rice vinegar to the recipe. You can just roughly chop the dried chilies and float them in the liquid. They will reconstitute and become soft.

2 Responses to “Vietnamese Chili Sauce – Nuoc Cham”
  1. [...] is another variation on Nuoc Cham (chili Sauce) and Nuoc Mam Gang (ginger sauce). The ingredients are simple and available in most [...]

  2. [...] Published Vietnamese Chili Sauce – Nuoc Cham. [...]

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