Vietnamese Fish Sauce

Have you ever wondered how Vietnamese salad bowls taste so damn good? Yes, it’s the fresh herbs and the vermicelli noodles. But it’s the fish sauce dressing that glues it all together.

What is Vietnamese Fish Sauce?

Vietnamese dipping or fish sauce also known as ‘nuoc mam’ or ‘nuoc cham’ is the ultimate liquid gold that is fresh, spicy, and sweet. This is commonly used to dress salads or as a dipping sauce for cold rolls or spring rolls and I even put a good dose on my lemongrass chicken. It hits all the flavor elements of sweet, sour, and spicy, taking your salad to the next level.

vietnamese fish sauce

This is the dipping sauce I grew up with as a kid, it was made often because this sauce pairs well with so many Vietnamese dishes. My Mum would also make an amazing sugarless version to dip boiled greens in.

Nuoc Mam is one of the most versatile dipping sauces. It’s quick and easy and one of the first things I learned how to make.

The best thing about it is that YOU get to choose how you want this sauce to taste. There is no perfect recipe but I am here to give you my favorite! You can tweak it however you like because not everyone loves a sour dressing or a super sweet sauce, so you can choose the balance of flavors.

I personally love a good balance of all three elements, but slightly more on the sour side. This is because I tend to drizzle this over salt-heavy meals such as lemongrass chicken or spring rolls, so the tanginess combats the salt and you get massive flavor bombs here.

Vietnamese fish sauce

What do you need to make Vietnamese Fish Sauce?

The sauce takes 10 minutes to prepare and you only need 6 pantry staples for this.

All you need is fish sauce (Squid Brand is my favorite brand to use), water, sugar, red chilli, garlic, and lime. Everyone has their own version, I have seen some people squeeze orange juice or add rice vinegar. So, there are many substitutes if you do not have these ingredients on hand.

I usually use bird’s eye chillies because I like the extra kick! But if you’re not a fan of spice, you can use bullhorn chillies which will give you the colour and mild spice.

Note: The consistency of bullhorn chilli is like capsicum so you may need to spend a little more time chopping these.

Make sure to take it easy when adding the fish sauce, you can always add more but never take out!

Vietnamese fish sauce

I usually have a jar of this ready to go if we randomly decide to have late-night spring rolls or wontons. However, you can make this ahead of time but I recommend you make a fresh batch because it will complement and make the dish taste better.

fish sauce

Vietnamese Fish Sauce

Vietnamese dipping or fish sauce also known as ‘nouc mam’ or ‘nouc cham’ is the ultimate liquid gold that is fresh, spicy, and sweet.
4.50 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Dipping Sauce, Salad Dressing
Cuisine Vietnamese
Servings 4


  • 1-2 whole limes
  • 5 tbsp Fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp White or raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup Warm water
  • 1 whole Birds eye chilli
  • 3 whole Garlic gloves


  • Dissolve sugar in water.
  • Squeeze in lime, continuing to stir until balanced. The acidity in limes and lemons can vary so use your taste buds here.
  • Slowly add fish sauce, spoon by spoon, until it reaches what the recipe calls for or until you are happy with the balance. Ensure you are tasting along the way.
  • Add the finely chopped chilli and garlic.
  • Serve this over some Lemongrass Chicken or your next noodle salad bowl.
Keyword Fish Sauce, Nuoc Mam

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