Dining In 1 minute 04 January 2024

How to Make a Simple Vietnamese Dipping Sauce You Cannot Live Without

A Vietnamese chef shares the recipe for this essential dipping sauce in Vietnamese cuisine.

Vietnamese food is delightful on its own, yet frequently, your favourite spring rolls, broken rice, or the aromatic bun cha are accompanied by a glossy translucent, amber-coloured dipping sauce that gives the dish an extra oomph.

Known as nuoc mam pha (nước mắm pha), a Vietnamese dipping sauce made from fish sauce, this dipping sauce or nuoc cham (nước chấm) is a real superstar in Vietnamese cuisine. The sauce offers a combination of sweetness, saltiness, savouriness, and spiciness, depending on your preferred taste. It has a thin consistency and appears mildly viscous, with tiny specks of chilli seeds or minced garlic suspended within.

With this versatility, whether you're whipping up a banh xeo (a Vietnamese pan-fried crêpe) or rolling fresh spring rolls, try this dipping sauce to go with your dish that will kick your dish up a notch.

This particular sauce also complements dishes such as spring rolls (both fresh and fried), bun thit nuong (grilled pork with vermicelli), banh cuon (steamed rice rolls), and numerous other delicacies.

Here’s how you can make the simple yet must-have sauce, especially for delicious steamed rice rolls, as shared by Chef Nguyen Van Chuong of The East restaurant in Hanoi. This eatery has been recognised with a Bib Gourmand in the MICHELIN Guide Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City 2023, celebrated for its exceptional Northern Vietnamese cuisine.

Steamed rice rolls at The East in Hanoi. (© The East)
Steamed rice rolls at The East in Hanoi. (© The East)

The dipping sauce for steamed rice rolls


  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • ½ tablespoon lime/lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 chilli, finely diced


  • Combine water, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar in a bowl. Stir thoroughly until the sugar dissolves completely.
  • Add the finely diced garlic and chilli to the mixture. Stir well to incorporate.
  • Set the dipping sauce aside to serve with steamed rice rolls.

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