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Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Three Popular Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauces for Seafood

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce, or Nuoc Mam Cham, is made with simple ingredients. Concentrated bottled fish sauce is diluted and mixed with garlic, water, chili, sugar and lime. It is a simple yet complex sauce that captures all dimensions of flavors: sweet, sour and salty. It is served alongside a variety of Vietnamese dishes and is a staple in all Vietnamese households. If you can make the perfect Vietnamese Dipping Sauce, you are qualified to be wed. 

Clams cooking over charcoal. 

Clams cooking over charcoal. 

There are many variations of Vietnamese dipping sauce by simply changing the ratios of ingredients and adding ingredients. The versatility of this sauce is most apparent in seafood. Vietnamese love their seafood so we seldom add seasoning directly to it. Seafood such as clams, mussels, oysters, crabs, and sea snails are boiled or grilled plain, then served alongside a variety of dipping sauces. You simply take your pick of sauce. Add as little or as much as you want. There is no one dipping sauce that is better than the other.

cooking clams over open fire

When it comes to seafood, we don't judge which sauce you choose. Below are the three most popular fish sauce dipping sauce for seafood. You pick the one that suits your tastes. For other dishes, we judge. You've been warned.

Traditional Vietnamese Dipping Sauce or Nuoc Mam Cham

This is the traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce that you most likely have seen in Vietnamese restaurant. It is used as a dipping sauce for many Vietnamese dishes such as egg rolls (Cha Gio), steamed rice rolls (banh cuon)Vietnamese crepes (banh xeo), noodles (bun thit nuong), etc. The list goes on and on. The flavors are mild and well balanced. This is the sauce that you can slurp down if you really wanted to. Not recommended, but you can and yours truly have done this a few times.

To make this sauce, mix the below ingredients together:

  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (1 fresh lime) 
  • I cup of coconut soda (Coco Rico brand)
  • 3/4 cup fish sauce (Viet Huong's Three Crabs brand)
  • 6 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 minced Thai chili peppers with seeds removed
Fish cooking over charcoal. The best and simplest way to cook a fish. 

Fish cooking over charcoal. The best and simplest way to cook a fish. 


Vietnamese Ginger-Lime Dipping Sauce, Nuoc Mam Gung

This sauce is similar to the traditional Vietnamese Dipping Sauce but slightly thicker and with an added zing of freshly grated ginger. This sauce is commonly used in Vietnamese Ginger Chicken Rice. The sharp flavors of ginger also makes it a great sauce for clams, sea snails and mussels. 

To make this sauce, mix the below ingredients together:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce  (Viet Huong's Three Crabs brand)
  • 3 tablespoons of grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 limes; juiced
  • 2 teaspoons minced chili peppers


Vietnamese Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce, Nuoc Mam Chanh

This sauce is similar to the Ginger Dipping sauce but instead of adding ginger, we upped the lime juice making it more tangy. The sauce is thick and tangy. Like all things tangy, this sauce pairs nicely with boiled and grilled seafood. It's also great for dressing on green papaya and mango salad.

To make this sauce, mix the below ingredients together:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce  (Viet Huong's Three Crabs brand)
  • 2 limes; juiced
  • 2 teaspoons minced chili peppers