If you have tried Bún Chả or Nem Rán (Fried Spring Rolls) in Hanoi, I believe you would recognize the bowl of dipping sauce with an abundance of enticing thinly sliced carrots and kohlrabi (or green papaya).

Close-up of a bowl filled with Hanoi-style dipping fish sauce, garnished with sliced carrots, kohlrabi.

Absolutely, you can find here the authentic Bún Chả Sauce (Nước Chấm Bún Chả), which also doubles as Fried Spring Roll Sauce (Nước Chấm Nem) here.

Given its versatility in numerous Hanoi street food , I decided to make a separate post for this delightful dipping sauce.

🌟 Nước Chấm: Northern vs. Southern Styles

Being a girl born and raised in the South of Vietnam, with some time spent studying and traveling in Hanoi, I have a special affection for Vietnamese street food . I’ve observed notable differences in taste between the two regions, especially in how the locals prepare their dipping fish sauce.

In general, Southern Nước Chấm tends to be a bit sweeter, while in the North, the sauce has a slightly more sour flavor.

A small white bowl filled with Vietnamese dipping fish sauce, with minced garlic and chili
Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce (Southern flavor)

Another noticeable difference is the side dish pickle that accompanies the fish sauce:

In the South, Đồ Chua (Vietnamese pickled carrot & daikon) is the standard choice. It pairs wonderfully with nước chấm in various Southern popular dishes:

In the North, locals prefer using carrots and green papaya (or kohlrabi, cucumber) to prepare Dưa Góp (the pickles) for their nước chấm (no daikon in this sauce, please!!!).

Bun Cha Dipping Sauce
Northern dipping sauce with green papaya

This Northern dipping fish sauce can serve as a substitute for Mắm Tôm (fermented shrimp paste) in Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm (rice noodles with fried tofu and fermented shrimp paste) if you find the strong aroma of this fermented sauce challenging.

A plate of Bun Dau Mam Tom
Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm

Note: the flavor of nước chấm is highly subjective. Some prefer their dipping sauce sweeter, while others like it more sour or saltier. It largely depends on individual taste preferences.

🛒 Ingredients for Bún Chả Sauce / Fried Spring Roll Dipping Sauces

Ingredients for Hanoi-styed dipping fishsauce: carrots, kohlrabi, garlic, chili

You only need a few ingredients:

For the pickle: carrots, kohlrabi (or green papaya, cucumber), salt, sugar, and rice vinegar.

For the fish sauce: fish sauce, rice vinegar (or lemon / lime juice), sugar, garlic, chili, and black pepper powder.

📝 Instructions

Pickle (Dưa Góp)

  • Thinly slice carrots and kohlrabi (with a ratio of 1 part carrot to 2 parts kohlrabi).
  • If you use green papaya, soak the slices in water with some salt to remove the milky sap. Then, rinse and drain them.
  • Combine the sliced carrot and kohlrabi with sugar, and then add the salt and rice vinegar (or lemon/lime juice). Mix well. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 15 minutes.
thinly sliced kohlrabi
kohlrabi and carrot mixed with sugar and salt

Make the dipping sauce

  • Combine fish sauce, rice vinegar / lemon juice, and sugar together. My ratio for a perfect Bún Chả Sauce is: 1 part sugar, 1 part fish sauce, 3/4 part vinegar / lemonjuice, and 5 parts water.
  • Add the minced garlic, minced chili, and black pepper powder (adjust to your taste).
  • Add the carrots and kohlrabi (without the brine) to the fish sauce.
  • Now your Hanoi-style dipping sauce is ready.
Close-up of a bowl filled with Hanoi-style dipping fish sauce, garnished with sliced carrots, kohlrabi.

🌟 Helpful Tips

You can substitute green papaya with kohlrabi or cucumber.

Because the salt content in fish sauce varies between brands and personal taste preferences are also highly subjective, there is no fixed ratio for making nước chấm. You can experiment with the ratio to find your perfect blend using this approach:

  • Start by mixing sugar, lemon juice, and water to create a delightful lemonade.
  • Then, gradually add fish sauce to taste.
  • This method allows you to control the flavor of your dipping sauce more precisely than adding all the ingredients at once.

In Vietnam, people prefer their dipping sauce with floating garlic and chili, as it enhances the visual appeal of the sauce. Here’s my tip: finely mince the garlic and chili, and mix them with a bit of sugar before incorporating them into the fish sauce.

If you’re serving this dipping sauce with Bún Chả, you can warm it up slightly; for other dishes, it can be served at room temperature.

a bowl of Bun Cha Ha Noi

My other articles on Vietnamese cuisine along with some culinary tips for your travels in Vietnam:

Did you find this recipe helpful?

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Close-up of a bowl filled with Hanoi-style dipping fish sauce, garnished with sliced carrots, kohlrabi.

Vietnamese Fried Spring Roll & Bún Chả Dipping Sauce

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If you've had Bún Chả or Nem Rán (Fried Spring Rolls) in Hanoi, you'd likely recall the bowl of dipping sauce filled with appealing, thinly sliced carrots and kohlrabi. This delightful dipping sauce is also a staple accompaniment for many signature Hanoi dishes.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Course Condiments
Cuisine Vietnamese
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • 1 Knife
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • 2 bowls

Ingredients
  

  • 0.4 pound kohlrabi  (200g or 1 bulb)
  • 0.2 pound medium-sized carrots (100g)
  • 1 tsp salt (for the pickle)
  • 2 tbsp sugar (for the pickle)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (for the pickle)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 10 tbsp water
  • tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • minced garlic (to your taste)
  • minced chili  (to your taste)
  • black pepper powder (to your taste)

Instructions
 

  • Peel and thinly slice the kohlrabi and carrot.
  • Toss the vegetables with salt and sugar, then allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, combine fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, chili, garlic, and black pepper.
  • Add the carrot and kohlrabi (without the brine) into the fish sauce bowl.
  • Now you can enjoy this dipping sauce with spring rolls or various Hanoi dishes, such as Bún Chả (Hanoi rice noodles with grilled meet), Bún Bò Nam Bộ (Hanoi Stir-fried Beef Rice Noodle Salad), Nem Rán (Hanoi Spring Rolls).
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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