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Fish sauce is like Vietnamese ketchup. Its a general condiment that can be used for almost anything, from noodles, to meat, to just dipping veggies in. Its salty, its sweet, its sour and intense all at the same time. Its also super easy to make, with only four (sometimes five) ingredients and NO cooking involved! But before you go rushing out to the store to buy a bottle, know that there is a misnomer here. Many people use the term ‘fish sauce’ interchangeably between the condiment we are making here, and the ingredient used in it. Fish sauce that you can find in small bottles at the store is the concentrated brine that is given off of salted and cured anchovies. That is NOT nuoc cham. Nuoc cham is not sold in stores, because everyone and their grandmother has their own home recipe for it that varies slightly between grandma and grandma. Fish sauce (the briny, super smelly liquid) that is sold in stores is only one small part of the full recipe. Just to clear things up.


Confusion out of the way, lets get going on this homemade fish sauce that would make any Viet grandma proud. This recipe is based on ratios, so feel free to scale it as big or as small as you’d like!


RELATED: How to make catfish spring rolls for your fish sauce

1 Part Fish Sauce (the kind you can buy in stores)
1 Part White Sugar
1/8th Part Lime Juice
2 Parts Unsweetened Coconut Water
Chopped Garlic to Taste
Chopped Thai Chili (Bird Eye) to Taste
  1. Combine 1 part fish sauce, 1 part white sugar, 1/8th part lime juice, and two parts coconut water in a bowl. (For example: 1 cup fish sauce, 1 cup white sugar, 1/8th cup {equal to 2Tbs} lime juice, and 2 cups coconut water)
  2. Stir to dissolve all sugar. If desired mixture can be heated gently to help sugar fully dissolve.
  3. Add chopped garlic and chili pepper to taste (typically one cup of fish sauce has 2 cloves of garlic and 3 chili peppers)
  4. Stir and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.


Simple as that! This is one of those recipes that is something to play with. Many people find fish sauce too sweet at first, so feel free to dial back the sugar, or increase the lime, or do whatever to it! Its your fish sauce, get wild with it. Some people add shredded carrot or radish, or cilantro. Some people add soy sauce. If serving with seafood, the addition of lemongrass, or substituting the lime juice for lemon juice can make things really interesting. Enjoy this staple of Vietnamese flavor.