Vietnamese is a favourite cuisine of mine because of the prolific use of fresh herbs and contrast of hot and cold temperatures. The salads are especially attractive, marinated and grilled meat served on top of rice noodles with pickled carrots, cucumber, herbs and a sweet, spicy and sour dressing. Nuoc Cham is a great example of how important balance is within Vietnamese cuisine, if one of the components is off then the sauce won’t taste right.
Of course I have a favourite restaurant out at Sunnybank that produces killer salads, a place that we affectionately call ‘Cow and Chicken’ because of it’s sign (It’s real name is Pho Hien Vuong Pasteur). They specialise in pho but their rice noodle salads are a cooler choice than soup when the Brisbane summer is in full swing. As with most dishes that I eat at restaurants, I have to give it a go at home to see if I can do it just as well. Legit pho is still slightly intimidating to me but the rice/rice noodle salads that I’ve made at home have been a raging success. You might have to wait a little while for the full salad recipe but if you get this dressing down in the mean time, the rest is child’s play.
Add half of the lemon juice first, taste, and add the rest as you need it. You can always add more but once it’s in there you can’t add less (I’m giving this advice because I’m horrible at taking it). De-seed the chillies for a mild, kid-friendly dressing.
This one is dedicated to my step-bro Aaron, now you can make it for yourself!
Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)
1 clove garlic, peeled
3-5 large red chillies
7 tbsp fish sauce (Three Crabs Brand is recommended)
7 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water
juice of 1 lemon
Blitz the garlic and chillies in a food processor until finely chopped (traditionally they are pounded in a mortar and pestle, also an option).
Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely.