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Earlier this year, we shared some recipes from a wonderful Vietnamese and Thai cookbook called, “The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking” by Mai Pham. Our neighbors, Simone and Chris told us about this cookbook, and in fact, it was at their house that we first had this delicious Vietnamese Dipping Sauce!
That cookbook calls this recipe “the single most important table sauce” used in Vietnamese cuisine. It’s slightly sweet and sour with some heat – but not too much heat – and totally versatile! We love it so much, we’ve started keeping a jar of this in our refrigerator at all times, and it is fantastic on fish tacos, as a dipping sauce for shrimp or fresh vegetables, as well as a dressing for this easy Asian slaw!
All of the ingredients listed here are available at any local supermarket. The original recipe does call for Thai Bird chili peppers – which may require you to visit an Asian or other specialty market to find – but jalapeño peppers work just as deliciously in this recipe (and it is what we used here in our version).
Lastly – we should note that authentic Vietnamese dipping sauces vary by region in Vietnam. According to the cookbook, this version is typical of the southern region of the country with its blend of citrus, garlic, chili and peppers. The further North you head, the simpler the sauce gets – and some regions make their dipping sauce as a simple mix of fish sauce and water.
Adapted from The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking: Favorite Recipes from Lemon Grass Restaurant and Cafes
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Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
- 2 small cloves garlic, sliced (about one tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon ground chili paste
- 1 fresh seeded Thai Bird chili pepper, chopped or ½ large seeded jalapeno pepper, chopped
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 2/3 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, including lime pulp
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely shredded carrot
- With a mortar & pestle, mash garlic, chili paste and hot pepper to a fine paste. If you do not own a mortar and pestle, finely dice to a paste or use a mini food processor.
- Transfer to a small bowl and add fish sauce, hot water, fresh lime juice and sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved.
- Serve in small bowls with shredded carrot on top.
- Store covered in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days.
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