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How to: The basic guide to Vietnamese dipping sauce

Updated on November 18, 2014
dipping sauce
dipping sauce | Source

Dipping sauce ( nước chấm) is the basic of Vietnamese cuisine, believe me, you'll see it everywhere when you're in Vietnam. We seem to dip everything: boiled vegetable, boiled pork, spring rolls, summer rolls, steamed seafood, steamed rolled pancake and even grilled pork.

There are many sauces, 20 is yet the number, but most are blended from fish sauce, sugar, lime and rice vinegar.

You might surprise, but even Vietnamese people, struggle: how to make the delicious dipping sauce? Since, it's the queen of the table and has the power to judge whether a dish is good or not, the blending task is not for the fainthearted person.

You know what, It's not that scary, once you know the stuffs. I was scary too, but no more.

If you have time, go for the tasting game, start with a ratio 1:1:1- sweet: sour: salty. For example, see how different it is between 1 sugar: 1 lime vs 1 sugar: 1 vinegar vs 1 sugar: 1 (half lime/ half vinegar).

The easiest way is to start from the ratio 1:1:1

Dipping sauce ready to serve
Dipping sauce ready to serve | Source

Have you ever make Vietnamese dipping sauce with coconut juice

See results

Core ingredients of dipping sauce

These are all you need to make delicious Vietnamese dipping sauce: salty - sweet - sour

  • high quality fish sauce
  • sugar, preferable light brown sugar
  • vinegar
  • lime/lemon
  • water/ coconut water
  • chilli ( optional)
  • minced garlic (optional)

Other ingredients such as herbs and spices are vary from dish to dish.

Choosing your method to make dipping sauce

There are three main ways of making dipping sauce, it depends on the tool that you have and the type of dipping sauce that you do.

  • Mortal & pestle
  • Heat, put on a stove and whisk while making
  • Whisk (simply so)

For some dipping sauce for char-grilled pork and rice vermicelli, you will want it to be warm, so you will choose the second method - Heat. This method also makes the sauce "together" than the third method - whisk only.

For dipping sauce for steamed snail you must use the first method to incorporate all the spices in to the sauce.

Apart from it, people from the south of Vietnam are likely to use mortal & pestle than people from the north. But if you can, use this method, it will make a better dipping sauce.

Adding water is the final step
Adding water is the final step | Source


  1. Blend sugar and rice vinegar to an emulsion - taste to check the balance.
  2. Add fish sauce, mix and taste to adjust.
  3. Add water (1- 5 portions, depending on the flavour intense requirement).
  4. Before serving, add garlic, chilli or/and herb and spices.

Additional information

  • Lightly pickled garlic tastes better and floats beautifully.
  • Lemon balances the sharpness of vinegar and lime
  • Lime gives fresh and authentic sense. Lemon is milder, sweeter.
  • Brown sugar makes a deep sweet dipping sauce.


When you blend Vietnamese dipping sauce for seafood, the ratio will on the sour side a little bit.
When you make Vietnamese dipping sauce for delicate dish such as the steamed rice pancake, you would be on the sweet side.


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    • huyenchi profile image

      huyenchi 4 years ago from London - Hanoi

      Thank you so much James!!!