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.
Once the sugar and soda have become one, add in fish sauce, chilies, and garlic and continue to stir until combined. Finally, add freshly squeezed lime juice.
Sample the nuoc cham and adjust the seasonings to taste—add more lime juice for sourness, fish sauce for saltiness, and sugar for sweetness.
More family recipes on Gastronomy:
- Bánh Bột Lọc – Clear Shrimp and Pork Dumplings
- Bánh Cuốn – Vietnamese Rice Crepes with Ground Pork and Mushrooms
- Bánh Giò – Minced Pork and Rice Dumplings
- Bánh Mì Tôm Chiên – Shrimp Toasts
- Bò Bía – Vietnamese Jicama, Carrot, Chinese Sausage, Egg, and Dried Shrimp Rolls
- Bò Kho – Vietnamese Beef Stew
- Bò Nướng Vĩ – Lemongrass Beef Grilled Tableside
- Bún Riêu Cua – Vietnamese Crab and Tomato Soup
- Cà Dê Nướng – Roasted Eggplant with Soy Sauce and Chilies
- Cà Ri Gà – Vietnamese Chicken Curry
- Canh Chua Chay – Vegetarian Sour Soup
- Chả Giò – Vietnamese Egg Rolls
- Cháo Chả – Porridge with Braised Pork Sausage
- Cơm Chiên – Vietnamese Fried Rice
- Gỏi Cuốn – Vietnamese Pork and Shrimp Rolls with Hoisin Dipping Sauce
- Hủ Tiếu Mì – Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup
- Learning to Cook with Bà Ngoại
- Mom’s Lollipop Fried Chicken
- Nui Lòng – Grandpa’s Spaghetti with Offal
- Phở Bò – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
- Phở Chay – Vegetarian Phở
- Thịt Kho – Caramelized Braised Pork and Eggs
- Thịt Nướng – Vietnamese Grilled Pork
- Đậu Hũ Kho – Braised Tofu with Mushrooms and Tomatoes
- Đậu Hủ Xả Ớt – Fried Tofu with Chilies and Lemongrass