Definitely one of Vietnam’s most essential dipping sauces, nước chấm is a blend of sweet, salty, tangy, and extremely savory flavors that create the base that's a staple of Vietnamese taste. It’s the perfect pair for basically all fried dishes, making every bite enjoyable and uniquely Vietnamese.
While the sauce has a flavor profile that may take some time for non-Vietnamese to get used to, it has become increasingly popular among Westerners, even appearing on American restaurant menus and grocery store shelves. Recently, a food travel magazine named the Vietnamese ubiquitous sauce one of the top 10 best rated Southeast Asian dishes.
TasteAtlas unveiled last week the 100 Best Rated Southeast Asian Dishes for this year. Nuoc cham took the 9th place — a well-deserved recognition for a dipping sauce that can literally be found in every Vietnamese home.
Nước chấm is prepared by adding lime juice or vinegar to the original fish sauce. Based on your preference, you can put in sugar or water to fit your tastes. Some common additions to the sauce are sliced chili peppers, garlic, shallots, spring onions, ginger, or fresh herbs.
The basic ingredients are the same but nước chấm has so many varieties, depending on regional differences and the type of meal it accompanies. This delicious sauce is often paired with chả giò (spring rolls), bánh xèo (crispy pancakes), nem nướng (Vietnamese grilled pork sausage), bò tái chanh (rare beef in lime juice salad), cơm tấm (broken rice), nộm (salad), etc.
Besides nước chấm, other Vietnamese dishes were mentioned on the list as well. World-popular bánh mì and phở took the 14th and 56th places, respectively.
From Northern Vietnam, bún chả (grilled pork meatballs with vermicelli noodles) stood at the 21st place. In 2016, it became a worldwide sensation after former US President Barack Obama appeared on Parts Unknown vlog, enjoying the noodle soup with the late Anthony Bourdain.
Cơm tấm (broken rice) from Southern Vietnam is a specialty of Ho Chi Minh City. It is commonly known as street food due to its broken and imperfect rice grains. Nevertheless, its simplicity but undeniable appetizing taste brought it to 57th place on this list.
In Central Vietnam, bún bò Huế (Hue breakfast noodle soup) also charmed many locals with its complex and rich soup. This Hue-originated dish was at the 66th position. Other dishes such as gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese summer rolls), chả giò (Vietnamese fried spring rolls), bún riêu (tomato and crab noodle soup), bò kho (Vietnamese beef stew) also made it to the top 100.