Nuoc Cham chay – Vietnamese Vegetarian Dipping Sauce

Nước chấm chay - Vietnamese Vegetarian Dipping Sauce from

My friends always forget that I’m vegetarian because I’m not necessarily vegetarian for ethical reasons. The primary reason is allergies. Yes, ultimately, what I’ve found out is that I’m allergic to meat. People who know me in person know me as the person who is allergic to everything. This was BEFORE my meat allergy. Let me sing you the song of my people.

By people, I mean those whom are allergic to life like me.

I am allergic to the following:

  • All animals with fur (especially cats and dogs)
  • Dust and pollen
  • Trees (yes. I know)
  • Pretty much all weeds
  • Grass (yup. No joke)
  • Most flowers (I still love them though)
  • Most sprouts (I love alfalfa, but sprouts make my throat itchy)
  • Tree fruits, especially kiwis and cherries (they make my throat swell)
  • Pen ink

Add in meat and my diet and lifestyle had to be seriously changed  to accomodate my allergies. It’s been really tough going to restaurants with friends, and cooking for my friends and family who are not vegetarian. Chris has been really great and understanding, mostly because he’s so picky about food that he trusts vegetables more than meat (his digestive system doesn’t accept any food outside of your standard British and Italian fare), but also because he’s the best. <3

Vietnamese food is mainly centered around seafood, pork, and beef. Vietnamese people love their meat, and who can blame them? With the amazing street food, and the entire country being almost one massive beach, fresh seafood is so easy and cheap to fill your bellies.

Of course, there is a huge vegetarian community as well. With homeopaths and Buddhist communities, vegetarian food has to be somewhat available and accessible to the public. With tons of tofu and beans, being vegetarian isn’t impossible in the Vietnamese community, it’s just hard.

Nước chấm chay - Vietnamese Vegetarian Dipping Sauce from

The first thing that makes it easier, is this sauce, nươc mắm chây [vegetarian salted fish sauce] . Vietnamese cooking often has fish sauce or dipping sauce with a fish sauce base (nước mắm [salted fish sauce]), and having this vegetarian dipping sauce makes it so much better.

I have two upcoming Viet posts for you to make up for the fact that I’m going to have to postpone Macaron May. I’m sorry! I won’t have 5 batches of macs, a FAQ page, and a mac round-up ready in time. BUT, these two dishes (if you follow my instagram you might have seen them) are some of my favourite things to eat—believe it or not, I like both dishes more than mac and cheese, so you know they’re awesome in my books.

Stay tuned! But in the meantime, here’s the recipe:

N??c ch?m chay – Vietnamese Vegetarian Dipping Sauce
Serves: 2½ cups of dipping sauce
  • - ½ cup soy sauce (Golden Mountain brand)
  • - 1¼ cup hot water
  • - ½ cup sugar
  • - 2 lemons, juiced (seeds and pulp strained)
  • - 5 garlic cloves, mashed or minced (I used a mortar and pestle)
  • - 2 tsp chili paste
  1. Mix together hot water and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add the soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic paste, and chili paste and mix.
  3. Adjust if you like it saltier (more soy sauce), spicier (more chili paste), etc.
If you really like garlic, use 5 cloves, if you don't love it, just use 2.


  1. Kristin says

    Thank you for your post. As a vegetarian, I know that being a vegetarian means other things to other people. Some people believe fish sauce is included in that. LOL I’m so thankful for your post.. and that it doesn’t have fish sauce. LOL
    Kristin ;)

    • says

      Haha you’re right, that does sound like me. The birch pollen and grass allergy look like the most likely, although I don’t get a reaction to oranges or tomatoes. But I get reactions to almost everything in the Birch pollen category. I still eat apples anyway though =P

      • Jill says

        Awesome. You might want to talk to an allergist. There is some research to show that allergy shots can help get rid of oral allergy syndrome. Just an FYI because I wished I knew that sooner so I wanted to share!

        • says

          Thanks Jill! I saw an allergist when I was in high school and I actually take antihistamines every day. I did allergy shots way back in the day but they wore off too quickly and weren’t as effective as the daily pill.

  2. Alison says

    You. Are. A. Goddess. You don’t know how long I have been trying to figure out how to make Vietnamese and Thai dishes without fish sauce. Heaven is in my kitchen tomorrow at about 6.


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