Vietnamese dishes are generally very healthy. They are usually composed of a starch like noodles or jasmine rice, a meat or fish, a bunch of greens and the whole meal revolves around a strong-flavored dipping sauce called nước mắm. The main ingredient is made from fermented fish sauce, which is rich in calcium and salt. The smell is very pungent. It's a very common flavoring in Vietnamese cuisine.
I made some bún cá chiên, literally rice vermicelli noodles with fried fish. I love to dip the crispy fried fish in the nuoc mam sauce. The fish absorbs all the sauce and it's divine.
Just add pickled daikon radish, carrots, coarsely crushed peanuts, some Vietnamese mint, grilled beef (or fried tofu for vegetarians) and you get a fresh healthy meal in minutes!!
4 Tbs nuoc mam
3 Tbs rice vinegar
5 Tbs boiled water
4 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp lime juice with pulp, freshly squeezed
4 tsp garlic, finely minced
2 tsp red Thai chili pepper, finely chopped, to taste
6 Tbs carrots, finely shredded
In a bowl, dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Let the water cool to room temperature. Add the rice vinegar and lime juice. Mix in the garlic and chili pepper.
Your condiment is ready to serve.
In a small bowl, pour about 3 tablespoons of the sauce over the carrots. Let it stand for at least 20 minutes. Drain the liquid.
When you're ready to eat, add the shredded carrots to the nuoc mam.
I found this wonderful gadget from Messermeister. It's THE best utensil for julienning vegetables. Is that a verb? Anyways, this tool is also very convenient to make eggrolls. It's fast, as well.
It's important that you wait until the water is completely cool to add the rest of the ingredients. Otherwise, you'll end up cooking some of the ingredients.
To make this vegetarian, you can substitute soy sauce for the nuoc mam ingredient. I usually use Ponzu brand soy sauce. The vegetarian version is called nước tương.
Nuoc mam is a Vietnamese fish sauce that you can find in any Asian store.