Basic Vietnamese dipping sauce

There are many variations on this Vietnamese sauce, but this version is the true basis. It is not only a way of adding flavours to dishes; as a dressing, nước chấm has an important role in bringing together all the ingredients with their various textures. Nước chấm is therefore a very important finishing element. In fact, it can determine the whole character of the dish. The basic dipping sauce is called nước chấm (dipping sauce) or mắm ngọc (sweet fish sauce). All special dipping sauces feature the extra ingredient(s) in the name of the sauce alongside 'nước' and/or 'mắm'.

Basic Vietnamese dipping sauce

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fish sauce



lemon juice



garlic, finely chopped



chilli peppers, sliced into rings

Preparation method

  • Dissolve the sugar in the water in a saucepan over a low heat.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Add the fish sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and chilli peppers.
  • Taste and then add extra sugar, fish sauce, lemon juice, or chilli peppers if desired.

Serving suggestions

  • As a dipping sauce for deep-fried spring rolls, fresh rice-paper rolls, or dumplings.
  • As a basic ingredient for a dressing.
  • As a flavour element, for instance to add an extra dimension to the filling of spring rolls or dumplings.

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