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Vietnamese Summer Roll Sauce?

Ok, I know this is heresy, but I really like the sauce they serve with Vietnamese Summer Rolls at Vietnamese restaurants. I've looked for recipes on line and while they are nice, they are not the sauce they serve at restaurants around me (Boston). Of the recipes I've found, some have been loaded with fish sauce others loaded with peanut sauce and hosin, but none of these are what I am used to. The sauce I usually get is translucent, orange in tinge, with little flex (red?), and some crushed peanuts sprinkled on top...it is sweet and a bit tart, and to me matches the summer rolls beautifully. Anyone know what the name of this sauce is and how to make it?

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  1. why is it heresy to like the sauce? although the brown sauce you are thinking of is typically served with the fresh spring rolls (as opposed to the fried, which use the sauce you're thinking of), no one would look at you funny for eating either with either. here's a recipe from my vietnamese mother-in-law:

    Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce)
    1-cup water
    4 cloves garlic
    2 small bird chilies (or one large one, for less heat)
    4-tbl nuoc mam
    4-tbl sugar
    4 tsp limejuice

    1. In a high-sided saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then add the sugar. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and put the mixture aside to cool.

    2. Roughly chop the garlic and chili. Add to a mortar and pestle (or food processor), along with the fish sauce and limejuice. Mash and grind until you have a loose, reddish paste.

    3. Combine the paste to the water-sugar mixture. Occasionally, the ratio of heat to sugar will need adjusting. My mother-in-law tastes the sauce, and if she coughs, teary-eyed, then it’s perfect.

    3 Replies
    1. re: frankie216

      What's nuoc mam?

      Thanks for this by the way - I just had Vietnamese for lunch today and was wondering how to make the sauce at home!

      1. re: shana

        Nuoc mam is viet fish sauce. Go to your local asian grocery and look for "three crabs" brand in a tall, glass bottle, about 1 liter. It is a salty, fishy sauce used to flavor all sorts of things. If you can't find Three Crabs brand, try to get another viet brand; thai fish sauce is slightly different and is acceptable as a substitution, but it won't be exactly the same.

        At some viet restaurants, you get a big mason jar of nuoc cham on every table, complete with a little metal ladle to dish out your share.

      2. re: frankie216

        Thank you! While you're doling out the recipes, can you also give me the recipe for the other dipping sauce that goes with the fried rolls (the one you gave me was the one for the fresh rolls, right)?

      3. the sauce recipe that is listed can be used with either the summer roll or the fried spring roll. more often with the fresh summer roll, you would eat it with the hoisin and peanut sauce rather then the one that is made with the fish sauce.

        1. In New York, Vietnamese restaurants generally serve their summer rolls in a hoisin-based sauce. I haven't eaten in Vietnamese restaurants in Boston, but it sounds like your dip is Thai sweet chili sauce mixed with some crushed peanuts. Does it look something like this?

          http://importfood.com/samp1001.html

          4 Replies
          1. re: Miss Needle

            I think that frankie216 hit the nail on the head, I've got that sweet chili sauce at home; adding peanuts to it would result in a very thick, non-translucent sauce. For Nuoc Cham, the crushed chiles and the use of good fish sauce gives the watery sauce a gold/reddish hue. Be warned, some people think that Three Crabs brand is not "real" fish sauce. It is thought that they use enzymes to encourage fermentation for quick production, not natural fermentation, and add fructose and flavor enhancers to tempt the palate. It does have less of a fish smell and taste, which I think is why people like it. Try Golden Boy or Tra Chang. When I can't find these, I buy Squid brand. You'll feel better knowing that it is pure, and that's better for Nuoc Cham anyhow.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              That is IT!! Thank you so much. Would anyone have a suggestion on a recipe to replicate this (the bottle says nuoc cham cha gio Ingredients: palm sugar, red chili, vinegar, garlic, salt, water). I am going to buy some, but being able to make my own would be even better. I bought some Chili Garlic Sauce from the first time I tried to make it, but the fish sauce in my old recipe threw it all off for me (nice sauce, but not what I remembered from the restaurant). I am guessing I can experiment with rice wine vinegar, garlic, the garlic chili sauce, and turbinado sugar. Any guess on the proportions?

              1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                I made spring rolls with a sauce similar to what you are asking to make. The one in the bottle is thicker, and really sweet. I will be happy to look it up tomorrow...

                1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                  Just an update that the sweet chili sauce is WONDERFUL! http://importfood.com/samp1001.html
                  Exactly what I wanted with just a wee bit more of a kick than the restaurant (my guess is the restaurant uses the same thing but waters it down a bit for the non-asian patrons who can't handle the heat or they use this one http://importfood.com/sapt2401.html).

                  I bought a bunch of stuff from the website and all of it has been great (curry pastes, pho base, sweet chili sauce, etc.). My summer rolls are now heavenly (made them last night) on a hot summer night...I highly recommend making them! Here's the recipe I used....skip the last ingredients if you want to use the sweet chili sauce instead. Also stuff each roll with as little off each ingredient as possible...it's really easy to over stuff these, making it difficult to roll! Trick- once you've lightly filled the roll, use your fingers to anchor the filling , lift the bottom lip of the roll up on top of the filling (it really won't be much), put your thumbs under the lip and *lift* the filling up and over to "roll" it up (use your fingers to keep the filling tucked under). The up and over motion is a big help in being gentle and not tearing.
                  http://www.chow.com/recipes/10641

              2. Wow, I have tried forever to do the same thing. I have a favorite Vietnamese Rest. in Lowell, Ma. (SouthEast Asian) that has that same sauce with their garden rolls but many other restaurants do a different sauce. My favorite is like the one you describe (and is served at Southeast Asian). I wonder if they would share it. They are awesome people. http://www.foodventure.com/

                1. Question InmanSQGirl - Is the sauce thick or very thin that you are talking about?

                  I just went to another of my favorites and it doesn't come with their summer rolls but it came with my main dish (noodle dish with bbq meat, vegies, etc).