Of all the family recipes I’ve learned over the years, this nuoc cham is without question the most essential. From com tam (broken rice) to banh cuon (pork and mushroom crepes) to cha gio (deep-fried spring rolls) to thit nuong (grilled pork), nearly every dish in the Vietnamese culinary cannon depends on this sweet and sour “mother” sauce to season, spice, and delight. When paired with a lackluster nuoc cham, even the most carefully prepared dishes can fall disappointingly flat.
This recipe comes from Aunt Phuong, the premier nuoc cham artist in my family. While garlic, chilies, lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce are all standard ingredients, her use of Coco Rico soda in place of water takes the vinaigrette to the next level. Though mostly mild in flavor, the coconut-tinged soda brings a crisp sweetness that water doesn’t possess. The soda’s carbonation fades just as soon as it’s combined with the sugar, so no worries about bubbly nuoc cham. Stir, stir, stir…
When stored in an airtight container, the vinaigrette will keep in the fridge for up to four months.
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 2 Thai red chillies
- 1 can Coco Rico soda (12 ounces)
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar (77 grams)
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
Trim and finely mince garlic cloves and chilies. Set aside.
Combine sugar and soda in a medium-sized bowl, stirring briskly with a large spoon to dissolve sugar completely.