Vietnamese dipping sauce or nuoc mam cham is the lifeblood of many traditional Vietnamese dishes. This sauce is predominantly made with sugar, fish sauce and lime juice which gives it the classic south east Asian flavour combination of sweet, salty and sour. Note: This is for 4 dipping servings. If using as a dressing then double the recipe.
In a small saucepan on medium heat, add the water and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved.
Take off the heat and add the fish sauce and lime juice.
Add the garlic, chillies and lime pulp (if using) and taste check. Adjust to your taste (Note 1).
Store in the fridge. (Discard after 1 - 2 weeks)
Balancing out your Vietnamese dipping sauce:
If there is not enough saltiness, body or it's otherwise bland, then add more fish sauce.
If there is too much of a strong fish sauce aftertaste, then you will need to add more sugar, lime and water to round it out.
If you are not getting enough tang, then add more lime juice.
If you need to mellow out the tang then add more sugar.
If you want a little more sourness without using lime or lemon then add a little white vinegar.
If the sauce tastes too strong, then add a little water too dilute the flavours.
If it tastes pretty close but not quite there, give the sauce time to develop. You will notice that once the garlic has been infused the flavour of your sauce will dramatically improve getting you over the last hurdle.