Vietnamese ginger fish sauce (Nuoc Mam Gung) is made from mixing together fish sauce, sugar, lemon/lime juice, garlic and ginger. It’s sweet, sour and spicy with a nice zing from freshly grated ginger, making it the perfect dipping sauce for poached chicken, duck and grilled seafood.
The secret to making this sauce amazing is smashing the garlic and ginger so that they release all their aroma. I like to use a mortar and pestle to grind the garlic and ginger into a paste. Alternatively, you can use a garlic press or a microplane grater for both ginger and garlic. If you don’t have these kitchen tools, you can simply smash ginger and garlic with the backside of a large cleaver/knife repeatedly until it forms a paste.
I like my Nuoc Mang Gung on the thick side so I do not add water and coconut juice, unlike in my basic fish sauce dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham). The only liquids in this sauce are fish sauce and lemon/lime juice. The thicker consistency helps the sauce clings onto whatever protein is being dipped. Plus, it’s the only flavoring the protein has (most are usually poached or grilled) so the more concentrated the flavor, the better.
You can make this sauce in advance but only add garlic and ginger right before serving. This way, you get the freshest taste. Plus, adding garlic and ginger right before serving also prevents the aromatics from getting water-lodged and sinking to the bottom, which doesn’t look too appetizing.
Nuoc Mam Gung is a must-have for Vietnamese Ginger Chicken Rice (Com Ga) and Vietnamese Duck Noodle Soup with Bamboo Shoots (Bun Mang Vit). Without it, these two dishes are incomplete and not worth eating! Yes, it’s that serious.
Vietnamese Ginger Fish Sauce
Makes 1 cup
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger (peel and thinly slice against the grain)
- 5 garlic cloves (peel)
- Juice of half a large lemon/lime
- 1-2 red chili peppers (slice thin; remove seeds to reduce heat if needed)
- In a medium bowl, mix together fish sauce and sugar until completely dissolved.
- Pound ginger and garlic cloves with a mortar and pestle until completely pulverized. Alternatively, run both through a garlic press or smash with the back of a large knife. Add smashed ginger and garlic to the fish sauce/sugar mixture.
- Add lime juice and chili peppers. Stir to combine.