Nuoc Cham Doesn’t Have to Stink
The Boy and I have been buying nuoc cham for the past year. Since most of our Vietnamese cravings were satisfied at [my] family functions or our weekend visits into the city, we didn’t really need to learn how to make it. Plus, the convenience was in the bottles.
But the truth is we weren’t ever all that thrilled with the bottled stuff, and I was even less thrilled about making it. Blame my parents. I still shudder when I think about how they used to boil sugar, water and fish sauce for 10 minutes to make the stuff. Sometimes that boiling concoction would include vinegar. Needless to say, that 10 minutes of boiling time would make the smell linger for 10 days. Although good I didn’t want The Boy and I to have to evacuate our house. So I just bought the bottled stuff.
When Giada became our roommate at Christmas, we started feeling bad about leaving her alone while we headed into the city Saturday mornings to get our fix of Vietnamese food (where the nuoc cham happened to be good). Naturally, it became my New Year’s resolution to start cooking Vietnamese food. My younger brother even showed me how to make pho when he was over for the holidays. (I have no idea how he is ahead of the curve.) Later, when I told him I got Andrea’s book he asked me to look up the recipe for nuoc cham so that he could make it. (He lives in San Francisco and can buy the freshly nuoc cham whenever he d@mn well pleases, so he never had a need to make the Hung & Van Boiling Pot of Gag either.) The thing that got me about Andrea’s recipe is that you didn’t have to heat up the fish sauce. REPEAT: YOU DON’T HAVE TO HEAT UP THE FISH SAUCE because the sugar will dissolve in lukewarm water.
Since I’ve been making it, we have been looking for every reason to use nuoc cham.
The Boy’s Reaction: “This. Is. The. Best. Version. I. Have. Ever. Tasted.”
And a love affair begins.
So anyway, the video & recipe for how I make nuoc cham to achieve the taste I know (thank you mom & dad) using the new-found knowledge I acquired from Andrea (you don’t have to boil the fish sauce!!!!).
2-3 Serrano peepers (Start with 2 . .. you can always add the 3rd)
3 cloves of garlic
3-1/2 tablespoons of sugar
2-3 limes (start with 2 . . . you can always add the 3rd)
1/2 cup warm water
4 tablespoons of fish sauce
1/4 grated carrots (optional)
Remove stems from the peppers. Place in mortar with garlic and crush together with 1/2 tablespoon of sugar. (You can also lightly crush in blender). Set aside.
Squeeze lime juice in separate bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and water. Stir until dissolved. Add fish sauce and continue stirring until everything is blended. Stir in pepper and garlic mix. Taste (perfectly okay to adjust taste by adding more lime, sugar or fish sauce). Top with grated carrots if desired.
Serve & enjoy on salads or as a dipping sauce!
Place any unused nuoc cham in tight container in refrigerator.