Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce for Dipping)

Nuoc mam, nuoc cham, nuoc mam cham. What's what? In our family and in most Vietnamese families we know, the term nuoc mam refers to both the bottled fish (anchovies) sauce used for seasoning and the mixture that sees that bottled fish sauce mixed with water, sugar, and citrus to create a concoction that we use to either dip a vast variety of Vietnamese rolls in or to pour over certain Vietnamese foods, such as with com tam (broken rice). But in general, this dipping sauce is also referred to as nuoc cham or nuoc mam cham. Cham means dip.

My mother, and grandmother, for that matter, makes her nuoc mam a little differently than the norm. The nuoc mam I now inherit from her and will someday pass on to my children is a bit sweeter, as it uses oranges in addition to lemons, and includes coconut juice (coconut water). Using coconut juice may seem unusual, but a cousin of mine uses coconut soda. So yes, there are many ways of making nuoc mam.

Just a note, for the kids and the wimps, you can leave out the chili peppers and the chili paste, but it just won't be as good! The chili peppers are better minced, but when in a time crunch, you can can just chop them. My mother actually doesn't use the chili peppers. She just adds in the chili paste.

8 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups coconut juice (from 1 coconut)
juice from 2 1/4 oranges
juice from 2 medium lemons
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons chili paste (optional)
4 red chili peppers, minced (optional)

This makes one quart of the nuoc mam.

Start by putting the garlic and sugar into a large bowl.

Add in the liquids (coconut juice, water, orange juice, and lemon juice).

The fish sauce we use in our family is the Viet Huong Three Crabs brand. You can see the bottle in the above photo.

Let me just take a moment to say something about my mom. Whenever she makes a dish and I ask her for the measurements of say...sugar, she'd answer me like this: "What do you mean, if you make a lot, you use a lot of sugar, and if you want to make a little, you use less sugar." I know, Mom, but there's this word called proportion. So for every dish I learned from her, I have memorized the ingredients but have never really measured how much, and she's never measured how much. And now that I've started measuring for this blog, I want to be dead on, so that's as dead on as you get up there. Of course, you can adjust the sugar and fish sauce and lemon juice to your liking. Making nuoc mam is easy. It's just about proportions.

Just one more tidbit. I was pleasantly surprised while reading EatTravelEat's blog to learn that I was chosen to receive the Proximity award to honor the friendships between bloggers.

The actual text of the award reads:

“This blog invests and believes the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

And so I pass on the love. The lucky eight people who I'm passing this award onto are:
Tastes of Home, The Eaten Path, mother may I?, Big Boys Oven, A Fat Cat Who Created a Vegetarian, Tangled Noodle, Shizuoka Gourmet, and Eat Life. Thank you for all for supporting and reading my humble blog.


EatTravelEat said...

Love the final presentation of the nuoc mam and all the images that help visualize the process of making the nuoc cham! I always forget to take photos during the process of making the recipe.

It is interesting that you add coconut juice as I have never tried it that way before. I wonder how the different flavors would meld together! Coconut soda must be even more surprising. I never knew you could add even soda to make nuoc mam :).

foodess said...

I was just happily slurping up Nuoc Mam on spring rolls the other day, and trying to use my detective skills to figure out how to make it at home! Thanks for the recipe!

SinoSoul said...

gotcha. orange and coconut juice.

I make my own too, but man, yours sounds INTERESTING!

DanielT said...

My wife is Vietnamese. So I know exactly what you are talking about. I gotta make it and impress my wife now. Coconut juice is definitely new.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Does it spoil faster with coconut juice?

shavedicesundays said...

EatTravelEat, thanks! A lot of folks haven't heard of the coconut juice or soda, but it's common in our family.

foodess, you can try this way and look up the more common way and see which one you prefer.

TonyC, not actually much of a different in taste, except this way makes it a little sweeter.

DanielT, I didnt' know your wife is Vietnamese. Maybe you should open up a good pho' place around here. Sorely lacking in this area.

WC, I haven't noticed too much of a difference. This can keep about a week, I haven't tried longer, as I'm always afraid of leaving anything that long in the fridge.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for passing on the award to me! You're too kind! You just made my day really! I've been a little mopey this afternoon (stress from school). Thanks for the love <3 :-)

Tangled Noodle said...

Thank you so much for passing on your award! It's awesome AND it comes with a great recipe. I love this sauce whenever we go to Vietnamese restaurants but have had a hard time finding a recipe. Many, many thanks for both!

seh said...

I'm new to your Blog and LOVE it! I often make Nuoc Mam, but use limes rather than lemons. Which is more common?

Keep up the good work!!

imjustatree said...

thanks for the award haha; that's nice of you.

your recipe is very interesting...i would like to try this sometime to see how the different juices make this taste. what do you use to dip this with? rolls?

MyCollegeKitchen said...

My Mom always makes sure I have a jar of nuoc mam cham in my fridge. She boils up her fish sauce and sugar mix and let the liquid mix cool before adding lime juice and garlic/chili. This can store for a long time. I have to tell her about coconut juice and orange. It's very interesting, actually yours is the first I've heard. We gotta try it some times. Your pictures look great.

Cynthia said...

I've bookmarked this dipping sauce.

Food For Tots said...

I start to fall in luv with fish sauce. Really taste great for steamed fish. But I can't find the brand u used. ;)

shavedicesundays said...

lengslog, you're welcome! Awww don't stress over school, not worth it.

Tangled Noodle, you're welcome, I'm sure you can find a more traditional recipe too. Try Wandering Chopsticks's site.

seh, Thank you for visiting! Limes are probably more common.

Sawyer, you're welcome. Yes you would dip rolls in it. I'll be posting recipes for those sometime in the future.

MyCollegeKitchen, never heard of boiling it before. How long can you keep it after doing that?

Cynthia, thanks! You're so open to new ideas- love that about you.

Food For Tots, you can use any of the Three Crabs brand. If you can't find that, try the Squid brand if it's available.

Anonymous said...

Love your site and love that you posted a recipe for this! I have been looking for Vietnamese sites to broaden my knowledge in that area! Thanks for posting on my blog and I'll be adding you to my ever growing blogroll!

shavedicesundays said...

testkitchenette, thank you for visiting and leaving the kind comment. Keep up your good work!