Nuoc Cham (Dipping Sauce)




Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup nuoc mam (fish sauce), available at Asian markets
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup sugar

Procedure

  1. In a small bowl, soak the red pepper flakes in the vinegar for 10–15 minutes.
  2. In a second bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, and sugar.
  3. Stir in 1½ cups boiling water and the pepper-vinegar mixture.
  4. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool. Serve at room temperature.
  5. Store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 30 days.
Fish and other aquatic animals, such as squid and eel, are central to the Vietnamese diet. Beef, pork, and chicken are also important, but are consumed in smaller quantities. The unique flavorings in Vietnamese cooking are created with a variety of spices and seasonings, including mint leaves, parsley, coriander, lemon grass, shrimp, fish sauces (nuoc nam and nuoc cham ), peanuts, star anise, black pepper, garlic, shallots, basil, rice vinegar, sugar, green onions, and lime juice. To provide a contrast in texture and flavor to the spicy meat components of a meal, vegetables are often left raw and cut into small pieces (usually cut at an angle, or julienne), especially in the south. Cool, crunchy foods include cucumbers and bean sprouts. The typical Vietnamese meal includes meat and vegetables, either eaten with chopsticks and rice or rolled into rice paper or (red) leaf lettuce and dipped into an accompanying sauce. Traditional preparation techniques are determined by eating habits, geography, and economics.
Pho bo (Beef Noodle Soup) is the signature dish of Vietnamese cuisine. It is often eaten for breakfast, purchased from sidewalk vendors on the way to work or school. Pho bo is also a common home-cooked meal, and it is a fun dish to prepare for a group. Seated around a table with dishes of ingredients in the center, each person is given a bowl of spicy beef broth. Then, each selects his or her vegetables and noodles to add to the broth. No two bowls of pho bo are alike.
Dessert is not as common in Vietnam as it is in North America, except perhaps for a piece of fresh fruit. One exception is sweet coconut custard, which might follow a celebratory meal.

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