Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Pha)

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Our first taste of Vietnamese Cuisine was in one of the restaurants along the famous Houhai Lake in Beijing probably a decade ago.  With the spread that we had (and I’d say it was quite a lot of dishes!) my first thought was that among the Southeast Asian nations Vietnamese is the closest to our cuisine.  Well, that’s just my opinion.

Anyway, I have tried cooking few Vietnamese-style dishes myself and would definitely share them to you but in the meantime, this dipping sauce should go up first.  It’s very easy to prepare and may probably remind you of few Filipino sawsawan (dipping sauces) such as chili-infused vinegar with garlic, salt and pepper or that combination of patis (fish sauce), kalamansi and chili.  I would describe this as a bit tamer in the way that it has sugar and the proportion of ingredients beautifully complements each other that doesn’t make it either too sour or too tangy I end up sipping my left-over condiment.

I also added just a hint of chili so that it’s friendlier to the boys.  You may totally omit the chili it’s still good, or add more if you want a really spicy kick. Doesn’t have to go with strictly Vietnamese food – it perfectly complements quite a number of fried, steamed or grilled meat, fish and vegetables.  Pritong tilapia or bangus, inihaw na porkchops, ensaladong talong at kamatis, the list can go on…


Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Pha)
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
  • ⅓ cup warm water
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small dried chili, deseeded and chopped
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  1. In a bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water.
  2. Stir in lime juice, garlic and chili.
  3. Lastly, stir in fish sauce. Ready to go.
You may add a bit more fish sauce or lime juice depending on your personal taste. You may substitute lime with kalamansi. Also, I like to use this for Hainanese chicken rice - I add a thumb of ginger, diced.


Below is a more ‘potent’ version – 1 tbsp sugar, 3 tbsp lime juice, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 clove garlic, minced, chopped dry chili.

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I am not a professional cook. My only claim to having a culinary background is a short stint as my dad’s teen ‘sous chef’ in his carinderia ages ago. Dad ran small eateries since I was a young kid - serving standard ‘turo-turo’ food ranging from the likes of menudo, adobo, pritong isda, dinuguan, binagoongan, bopis, munggo, pinakbet and giniling to merienda fares like goto, ginataan, pancit bihon, halu-halo and saging con yelo.

My father, a farmer in his hometown before working his way to becoming an accountant, definitely influenced my cooking in a lot of ways than I thought. My siblings and I were raised in a backyard full of fruit trees and vegetable garden. We spent weekends and the summer breaks running around with ducks, chickens, goats and pigs. I had wonderful memories of gathering eggs, butchering chickens, selling vegetables and the sweet aroma of preserved fruits. But my love for art led me to a degree in Architecture. Just few months after getting my license, I went abroad and lived independently at age 23. Definitely no maid, no cook, and a totally different food culture. Along the way I met lots of friends and spent what seemed a lifetime learning new tricks and recipes.

Now living in Auckland, I am a work-from-home mum who juggles time between work, fun and family - in pursuit of work-life balance. No matter how busy I am, I love the idea of cooking for my family. My blog chronicles home cooking greatly influenced by life outside my home country from Southeast Asia to Beijing and Auckland. And most of the time, being busy also means easy (sometimes quick), affordable meals.

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