Did you know that chilies actually have more vitamin C than oranges? Neither did I. But because I recently had a houseful of small boys (little petri dishes) and ended up with a horrible cold, I’ve been trying to use as many as possible. I’ve been experimenting anyway with a number of Asian flavors, so I enjoyed this sauce very much. you can make it as hot or mild as you like, depending on the type and quantity of peppers you choose.
Technically, Nuoc Cham is a Vietnamese dipping sauce, so use it on your chicken, steak or anything else you’re in the mood for. I did it over both chicken and steak - both delightful - but loved it most in the sticky rice.
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce*
1-3 garlic cloves
2 small thin fresh red or green Asian chilies or serrano chilies
1/4 cup sugar (optional. I prefer it without)
If you don’t want this too hot, you can remove the seeds from the peppers. If you have a molcajete or mortar & pestle, crush the sliced peppers and cloves of garlic until well incorporated. Otherwise, just chop them finely. Add the rest of the ingredients and you’re done.
If you’ve never used fish sauce, give it a try. It’s not so much “fishy” as “funky” and adds a nice umami, or earthy, element to a dish. If I were describing this attribute in a wine, I would say it has a “barnyard” quality to it. There is even vegan “fish” sauce,” if you’re so inclined.
If you’re going to use this sauce for rice, just double it and count it in with the amount of fluid required to cook your rice.
This would work well in any rice dish, but I chose sticky, or glutinous, rice, used in many Southeast Asian dishes. (Glutinous as in gluey - there’s no gluten in it).
Lemongrass, sesame oil, soy sauce and coconut are all great additions if you’re feeling creative.
A dry Gewurtzraminer or dry Reisling would be great with this, as would an extra brut Champagne, but my bottle of choice was NyQuil.