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fish sauce

Vietnamese Recipes

Prepared Fish Sauce

Prepared Fish Sauce

Let me tell you how clueless I used to be about cooking. You know that little bowl of amber coloured liquid that you get at restaurants when you order vermicelli noodles bowls or rice plates? Well, Vietnamese people just call that “nuoc mam” or fish sauce. So naive, non-cooking me thought that I could just buy a bottle of fish sauce at the Asian grocery store and pour that over my noodles. BIG MISTAKE! Don’t ever do that. Although Vietnamese people just call that little bowl fish sauce, it is actually prepared fish sauce, sweetened and diluted, to make it palatable as a dressing on your noodle bowls and rice bowls.

One important lesson I’ve learned from my mom that when buying the pure fish sauce in a bottle, there is a notable difference between cheap fish sauce and premium fish sauce. I used to buy the bottle that was $3 and when I tried to make this prepared fish sauce, it was a murky brown colour, not the light amber colour that you see in restaurants or at my mom’s house. So I ‘splurged’ and bought the premium bottle for $7 at the Asian grocery store. Don’t buy the fish sauce found at Sobeys or Co-op – that’s just wrong. My mom highly recommends this brand:

Pure fish sauce

I also like my prepared fish sauce to contain some pickled carrots in it, but you can skip the carrots if you want.

When I called my mom up to ask for her recipe, she started rattling off the ingredients with no measurements. When I interrupted her and told her I needed to know the exact measurements, she provided them to me with this spoon as her basis of measurement:

Chinese Soup Spoon

(*sigh*) Needless to say, I have converted the measurements to tablespoons for you guys!

You can prepare this ahead of time and it will keep in the fridge for a week or so. Take a read of this recipe, and tomorrow on the blog, I will share an easy weekday rice plate recipe that calls for this prepared fish sauce!

Prepared Fish Sauce (Nuoc Mam)

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 15 mins


  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 4 tbsp pure fish sauce
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 small lemon wedge
  • 1 red chili pepper, minced
  • 3-4 carrots, shredded
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar





Combine the boiling water, salt, vinegar and sugar and stir well.


Allow to cool and then add the shredded carrots.


Store in the refrigerator until just before it is time to eat. Drain all the liquid from the carrots, give the carrots a squeeze with a paper towel to soak up any excess liquid, and add to the prepared fish sauce.




Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Stir well.


Add the fish sauce. Stir well.


Let cool in the refrigerator until it is time to eat.


When cool (or just before you eat), add the minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, the minced red chili pepper, and the shredded carrots.