Nước Chấm (also called Nuoc Mam) is an umami powerhouse fish sauce essential to Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian cuisine. In this vegan rendition, the same intense deliciousness you rely upon for dipping fried spring rolls in, or drizzling onto banh mi is at your fingertips, and no fishies have to be killed!
Nuoc Mam holds immense cultural significance in Vietnamese food, featuring prominently in noodle soups, sandwiches, and as a condiment for steamed or fried rolls and dumplings (like these crispy rice dumplings, or drizzled onto Vietnamese rice paper salad or into your favorite aged basmati rice). Its distinct flavor profile, combining saltiness, umami, and a hint of sweetness, enhances the overall taste and balance of Vietnamese cuisine. Keep a jar of Nuoc Mam in your fridge to add a powerful boost to your bánh bao chay, while paying homage to the rich heritage of Vietnamese cooking.
Follow this straightforward recipe to create your own Nuoc Mam. This will only take five minutes to make, and your spring rolls will never have been so happy!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
😺Quick as a cat: This quintessential Vietnamese condiment takes under five minutes to make. The straightforward instructions and easily accessible ingredients allow you to whip up a batch of Nước Chấm in no time, adding a burst of flavor to your dishes without the hassle. Your noodle bowls and rice paper rolls are about to get a major upgrade!
👵🏻Gets better with age: Once prepared, this Nuoc Mam can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. The best part is that its flavor continues to improve over time, as the ingredients slowly ferment together, creating a richer and more complex taste. This means you can enjoy the sauce throughout the weeks, adding depth to your meals as it matures.
🕺Hate eating animals or gluten? Score. This recipe is 100% free of animal products and also has no wheat products. I also hate eating animals. That’s why I haven’t done so in over 22 years!
👩🔬Well-Tested by Experts: Like all the recipes on my blog, this one has not only been tested by myself, but also by a team of culinary experts and recipe testers. We have experimented with various brands of vegetarian fish sauce and vegetarian oyster sauce to ensure that the recipe has a delicious and authentic outcome with every batch.
🍶Goes great with almost ANYTHING: This Nuoc Mam is a versatile condiment, elevating a wide range of dishes. Its umami-rich, salty, and slightly sweet flavor adds depth and complexity to stir-fries like pad woon sen, salad, spring rolls, and dim sum items like Chee cheong fun. This sauce is a magic bullet for enlivening food and taking simple dishes to the next level. I am addicted to eating Nasi Uduk (Indonesian coconut rice) with Nuoc Mam drizzled liberally all over it.
🤷♂️How is traditional nuoc mam made?
Nuoc Mam, commonly known as Vietnamese fish sauce, is a highly regarded condiment that holds great cultural significance in Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly in Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian dishes. This fermented delicacy is crafted by combining fish, salt, and water and allowing the mixture to undergo a slow and transformative fermentation process that lasts several months to a year. The result is a pungent, umami-packed liquid with a complex flavor profile.
Nuoc Mam's production process involves cleaning small, saltwater fish and combining them with salt. The mixture is then left to ferment in large barrels or containers, where enzymes and beneficial bacteria break down the fish proteins. Over time, this natural fermentation process gives rise to its distinct aroma and robust flavor. By the time Nuoc Mam hits restaurant tables as a common spring roll condiment, it has generally had sugar, vinegar (or citrus juice), and sliced red chilies added to it. The end product is a condiment that boasts a harmonious blend of saltiness, sweetness, and umami, which is perfect for crispy fried appetizers, or over rice.
Whether it's used as a dipping sauce for summer rolls, a marinade, or a base for soups and stir-fries, Nuoc Mam imparts a unique savory and slightly sweet taste. Making it completely vegan means replacing the fish with vegetarian oyster sauce, or vegan fish sauce, both of which usually get their umami quality from mushrooms.
🌶️Notable ingredients and substitutions
Lime Juice (Nước Chanh)
Lime juice, a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, adds the essential bright and tangy element to the Nuoc Mam sauce. It provides a refreshing acidity that balances the richness and sweetness of other ingredients. You can substitute it with lemon juice, rice vinegar, or white vinegar. A little calamansi juice also makes a great alternative.
Bird's Eye Chilies (Ớt Hiểm)
Bird's eye chilies, known for their fiery heat and vibrant flavor, contribute a spicy kick to the vegan Nuoc Mam. I always keep these on hand to use in Tahu Goreng, and Ketoprak, which I make ALL THE TIME. These small and potent chilies bring a touch of heat that can be adjusted to personal preference. For milder heat, you can substitute them with milder chili varieties like jalapeños or serrano peppers, or cut down the amount you use in the recipe.
Vegan Fish Sauce or Vegan Oyster Sauce
Vegan fish sauce or vegan oyster sauce is available in specialty stores or online, and acts as a crucial component in achieving the authentic umami flavor profile of Nuoc Mam. These plant-based alternatives provide the umami depth and savory notes that are characteristic of traditional fish sauce or oyster sauce. Look for brands that use fermented soy or mushroom extracts as substitutes. I prefer the consistency and color of the nuoc mam made with vegan fish sauce, as the mushroom-based oyster sauce is thicker and darker, although still yummy.
I'm gonna walk you through the process for effortlessly pulling off this dipping sauce recipe. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Shred the carrots and add them to the sauce base along with the finely minced garlic, sugar (or coconut sugar), vegan fish sauce or vegan oyster sauce, sliced bird's eye chilies, and salt. Mix well to ensure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Add the lime juice. Use freshly juiced, rather than bottled lime juice.
Allow the sauce to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, giving the flavors time to meld together and develop.
After the resting period, give the sauce a final stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt or fresh-pressed lime juice if desired. Get dipping goi cuon (vegan Vietnamese rice paper rolls) in this asap!
It's a no-brainer to use this nuoc cham sauce to perk up all your favey Vietnamese vegetarian dishes.
This delicious dipping sauce is great with all fried things like bhaji, and even vadai. I love it as a way to perk up Asian noodle dishes like mee rebus, mi xao xi dau (stir fried soy sauce noodles), mie goreng and its thicker big brother bami goreng. The delicious sauce is also great as a stir-fry sauce to cook rice noodle dishes like bihun goreng in.
I love drizzling some onto tom yum fried rice, with or without juicy bits of pineapple stir-fried into it.
🙋♂️Are you looking for some dope Southeast Asia desserts to serve after eating a dinner featuring Nuoc Mam? My faves are Banh Flan (Vietnamese creme caramel), Che Ba Mau (a three-color cold dessert made with pandan jelly), Kem Chuoi (Vietnamese coconut milk ice cream bars) and Martabak Manis (fluffy Indonesian pancakes stuffed with roasted peanuts and chocolate).
Hoisin sauce and nuoc cham are not the same. Nước Chấm is a tangy Vietnamese dipping sauce made with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and other ingredients. It is used as a condiment for dishes like spring rolls and banh mi.
Hoisin sauce, on the other hand, is a thick, sweet, and savory Chinese sauce made with soybeans, garlic, sugar, and spices. It is commonly used in dishes such as Peking duck and stir-fries. These sauces have distinct flavor profiles and are used in different cuisines and dishes.d dishes.
"Nước Chấm" is pronounced as "noo-uhk chahm" with a slight rising tone on "noo" and a falling tone on "uhk" in "Nước," and a falling tone on "chahm." The "ch" sound in "chấm" is similar to the "ch" sound in "chin" or "chop."
"Nuoc Mam" is pronounced as "nook-mam" with a short "oo" sound in "nook" and a short "a" sound in "mam." The emphasis is placed on the first syllable, "nook."
After preparing the sauce, transfer it to a jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid.
If you prefer a milder flavor, place the jar or bottle directly in the refrigerator. Nước Chấm can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
💣For a more intense flavor, you have the option of allowing the sauce to ferment at room temperature before refrigeration. This step is entirely optional but can enhance the depth of flavors. Make sure to use a sterilized or deeply sanitized jar. Leave the tightly sealed jar of sauce at room temperature for 6-8 hours to initiate fermentation. Keep in mind that during fermentation, gases may build up, so it's essential to periodically "burp" the container by slightly unscrewing the lid to release any pressure.
After the initial fermentation period, move the jar or bottle to the refrigerator for storage. The flavors will continue to develop and improve over time.
✌️My favey dishes to serve with this recipe:
Say Hi on Social! 👋
Follow me on Instagram & Facebook for more recipes.
❤️Love this recipe? It helps me out greatly if you leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below and maybe even leave me a lovey-dovey comment too!
Nước Chấm (Vegan Vietnamese Nuoc Mam fish sauce)
- In a bowl, combine granulated sugar and water. Stir vigorously using the tines of a fork until the sugar is completely dissolved, creating a sweet base for the sauce.
- Add the finely minced garlic, vegan fish sauce or vegan oyster sauce, lime juice, sliced bird's eye chilies, shredded carrot, and salt to the bowl. Mix well to ensure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Use it immediately or transfer the sauce to a jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using it to chill it and allow the flavors to infuse further.
- To grate the carrot, use a box grater or a grating attachment on a food processor. This will give the carrot a fine texture that blends well with the other ingredients.
- If you want more heat, stir in a spoonful of garlic chili sauce (sambal oelek).
- Adjust the amount of sliced bird's eye chilies according to your desired level of spiciness. Be cautious, as these chilies can be hot.
- For optimal flavor, let the sauce refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to develop fully. The flavors will continue to deepen and improve over the course of a couple of weeks.
- Remember to shake the sauce well before each use to ensure the ingredients are well-mixed.