Nuoc Cham (Chili Sauce for Dipping)
Dried red chilies
From "Great Asia Steambook" by Irene Wong. Published by Taylor and
Ng, distributed by Random House. 1977. ISBN 0-912738-11-1.
The red stuff can be had in stores. It comes in a clear plastic
bottle with a green lid and a red rooster on the plastic. Or in
smaller glass jars. It's called "Tuong ot toi Viet Nam" (tung ot
toy) and is nothing more than red chiles mashed up with a bit of
garlic. You could easily make it by smashing up a handful of the
little red hot peppers and a couple of cloves of garlic in a mortar
and pestle. There's a similar Filipino sauce called "Sambal
Oeleck"++virtually the same but with the addition of vinegar. Here's
my favorite recipe for nuoc cham. I have some variants if you'd like
to see those too. I use it on a lot of stuff++it's very good with
poached or white cooked chicken, thousand year eggs, shrimp chips.
Mince chilies and garlic finely and place in a mortar. Mash with the
heel of a cleaver or pestle. Add sugar and stir until it dissolves.
Add fish sauce, vinegar and lemon juice, stirring between each
addition. This makes enough for 2 to 4 people. I almost always
double the recipe just to make sure there's enough. I've kept it for
long periods of time but unless you freeze it, it's past it's prime
after a few days.
This is a basic chili sauce used for a dip for chicken or whatever.
Variations of this are found in Cambodia, Thailand and other Southeast
Asian countries. You can fiddle with it endlessly. This is a good
starting point. The proportions shown here produce what I consider a
mildly warm dip. I generally use two to six times as many chilies,
depending on their strength and how hot I want it.
VARIATIONS: Use green serrano chilies instead of dried red ones,
thinly slice a red or green chili into rounds and toss them in, lime
juice instead of the lemon juice or palm sugar instead of granulated.
If you make it in a food processor, don't over process. It should
have small chunks of each ingredient rather than being a homogeneous
liquid. The taste is sour and hot, very puckery. It's great with
poached or steamed chicken, duck or game hens. Much better with
basically bland dishes rather than something like curry which has
it's own blend of spices. Good with Chinese white-cut chicken or
Steamed Ginger Chicken with Black Bean sauce. It's truly addictive
and I often serve it with meals that are not Oriental in origin.
Should be good with a firm- fleshed white fish or boiled shrimp or
crab. Fish sauce is a liquid made with anchovies and salt. It's not
really fishy tasting. Look for it in the oriental section of
supermarkets or at markets catering to Asian clientele. Tiparos is a
good brand made in the Philippines. I prefer Thai or Vietnamese fish
sauce, but they'll probably be harder to find. A timesaver is to
combine large quantities of the liquid ingredients and store them in
the fridge. Then, when you want some Nuoc Cham, just chop up the
chilies and garlic, pound them with the sugar and add them to the
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