Nuoc Cham Vs. Nuoc Mam – Comparison Guide

If you like to eat in Vietnamese restaurants, you’ve probably noticed his penchant for dipping sauces. Dishes such as spring rolls are always served with small cups of hot sauce. A question often asked by people outside Vietnam – what is the difference between nuoc cham and nuoc mam? Read on for a full answer.

What is the difference between nuoc cham and nuoc mam?

Nuoc cham is a general term for a sauce and can vary from soy sauce to fish sauce, chili sauce and everything in between. Nuoc mam is a very popular fish sauce, which is served in Vietnamese cuisine and can have a warm, sweet, sour and spicy taste. It is often prepared by combining fish sauce with water, lime juice, chopped garlic and chili pepper.

How to make nuoc-mâm

This is a recipe for an aromatic sauce from Southeast Asia, which can be prepared in a few minutes without having to cook.

Cooking time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 0 minutes


  • ¾ cup of water
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 Thai chili, thinly sliced
  • 1 stuffed garlic clove


  1. Mix the water and the sugar in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and stir until the sauce is ready.
  3. Sprinkle with chilli sauce and garlic before serving.


  • To help dissolve the sugar, heat the water in the microwave for 30 seconds before stirring.
  • Slowly add the citrus juice and fish sauce and season to prevent it from tasting too strong.
  • If you serve this sauce with seafood such as eel, you should add lemongrass to lighten the dish.
  • Other ingredients such as white radish, green papaya or chopped marinated carrots can also be served with nuoc mam.

Did you know about this? Nước mắm pha means mixed fish sauce. This is the most common type of sauce, based on fish sauce, which contains lime juice or vinegar, water and sugar. A vegetarian version of this sauce can be made by replacing the fish sauce with Maggie’s sauce.

What to feed with nuoc mam pha

rolls of rice paper (Bánh cuốn): Ingredients such as pork, shrimps, carrots, cucumbers and salad are wrapped in rice noodle leaves.
Spring rolls (Chả giò) : The spring rolls are filled with ingredients such as pork shoulder leaves and fried until crunchy.
Noodles (Bún) : Cold rice noodles au gratin with grilled pork
Rice pancakes (Bánh xèo): spicy fried pancakes made of water, rice flour and turmeric, then stuffed with ingredients such as prawns, bean sprouts or pork.

Nuoc Cham Vs. Nuoc Mam – Comparison Guide Frequently asked questions

What’s in the Vietnamese fish sauce?

The fish sauce sold in supermarkets usually contains water, anchovies and sea salt. The variety sold in restaurants is more complex and often contains water, lime juice, sugar, chili and garlic.

What is the difference between khoicin and fish sauces?

Fish sauce is a salty sauce made from sea salt, anchovies and water. Hoysine sauce with a thick consistency, made from soy paste, garlic, sugar and many other ingredients. If both sauces are salty, the hoicin has an extra sweet hue.

How do I save nuoc mam?

Nuoc-mâm is best to enjoy the freshness, but if you have leftovers, it is best to keep them in the fridge for a week or two. Store the sauce in a glass or airtight container at the bottom of the fridge. Mamas Nuoc with vinegar, not lime juice, will last longer. You can expect it to take one or two months before it loses its quality.


Although nuoc cham and nuoc mam seem to be the same, they each have a different meaning and should not be used interchangeably. Nuoc cham is a broader term that refers to all kinds of sauces, while nuoc mam is a special kind of dipping sauce that also contains fish sauce with a variety of other ingredients.

What’s your favorite Vietnamese dish? Please let us know in the comments below.

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