This is a very unique dipping sauce – representing Southern Vietnamese cuisine and flavour, inexpensive, savory yet somehow bringing back memories for those who have lived through the difficult times during the Vietnam war. Each time I start making it, my mum will tell me again about her story back then; when everyone was so poor and just to have a bit of fish sauce, a bit of pork fat and sugar for a pot of savory dipping, was already a feast. What they did also then was to go pick some fresh vege from the garden; from cabbage, carrots, daikon, to okra, green bitten melon, or even just simply anything that they could find in the garden to go with the sauce. It is now an quite expensive dish in mostly every restaurant in Saigon, yet mum prefers me making it at home for her – I can barely say no to mum…
– 3 tbsp of fish sauce
– 3 tbsp of brown sugar
– 2 tbsp of dried shrimp; soaked in warm water for 5 minutes then minced
– 4 tbsp of pork fat
– 1/2 tbsp of finely chopped shallot
– 1/2 tbsp of whole pepper or 1 finely chopped chilli
– 1/2 tbsp of freshly chopped scallion
– In a small clay pot or small sauce pan, toss in pork fat over high heat with shallot, WITHOUT ADDING ANY COOKING OIL, until brown and crispy. If you want a healthier version, can choose to remove rendered pork fat after crispy and replace fat oil by cooking oil to carry on.
– Now your pot is very hot, carry on cooking over stow will make it burn. So my technique is to remove from stow, quickly add in minced shrimp + fish sauce + sugar. Give it a gentle stir before putting it back on over med heat and cook until thickened. Add pepper and scallion before serving.
– Tips to cook the vege: wait until water is boiled, add in a bit of salt, then cook without covering the lit then quickly rinse through cold water. When all done and serve nicely in a plate, I will store them all in the fridge to cool all down and keep them greenness before making the sauce.
– Cook each vege separately as each will have its own required cooking temperature and duration. You just want the vege just to be done, not over cooked, or soft.
A few cooking duration for your reference – either boiled, or steamed:
– 5 minutes or less: spinach, peas, asparagus, eggplant, broccoli, corn, carrots, beans, bittern melon.
– 10-15mins: cauliflower, squash
Bon appetite !