Nuoc Mam Gung – The ultimate Vietnamese dipping sauce

8 Aug

My mother in law’s nuoc mam gung (ginger dipping sauce) is legendary. No one in the family makes it like her.

I have made several feeble attempts that mostly proved to be failures. Edible, but failures nonetheless. Rather than ask her to make the sauce for me every time I prepare Bun Mang Vit (Duck and bamboo noodle soup), vermicelli bowls, or any of the other dishes we enjoy with the sauce, it was time for me to learn.

Over and over she says “No measurements, just taste.”

OK, fine.

But I still need to see about how much of everything goes in to this magical concoction.

We called her up the other weekend and said we’d be over to make the sauce with strong warnings not to have it already made before we arrived. She didn’t make it, thankfully, but had the other ingredients ready and waiting.

And the results were glorious.

Mom and I holding the finished product of ginger dipping sauce.

While lazing at the pool, she called and said she was ready early. So over we went. Big bag of ginger root in hand, she sat me down at the table and ordered me to peel.

She looked on with sheer confusion as I used a spoon to peel off the skin. She sat down with a big knife and expertly whittled away the outer skin. I got the nod of approval when I showed her how easily it came off with a spoon. I doubt she’ll ever apply this new bit of knowledge, but that’d OK.

Peeling ginger with mom while dad looks on

Ba is clearly amused by my culinary technique.

Next she points me over to the counter where she has a metal pot, some garlic cloves, and wooden mortar ready. She nods at the trusty and often sourced sugar jug and I sprinkle a tablespoon or so over the ginger slices and garlic.

Then comes the hard part.

You bash the heck out the ginger until it’s completely pulverized. I had to do it in batches there was so much.

Smashed ginger

I asked on several occasions why not use the little food processor we both have.

She replied that the aroma is much better doing it this way, which I happen to agree with. Only if I’m making the volume she planned for us, I may have to cheat.

After the ginger is satisfactorily macerated, it’s time to put everything together.

First came the chili garlic sauce. Again no measurements, just an approving nod after I sloshed enough in the pan.

Smashed ginger with chili garlic sauce

Then juicing the lime wedges already prepared.

By this point my fingers had had enough.

But the promise of seeing this amazing sauce through to completion kept me going.

While I paused to snap a photo of said progress, Ma jumped in and started squeezing.

Squeezing lime wedges in to the sauce pan

Next came the nuoc mam fish sauce and sugar.

Lots and lots of each.

Two spoons for tasting along the way, of course.

Ginger, sugar, lime and fish sauce all mixed together

No measurements, of course.

Once we finish the large takeout container of nuoc mam gung , I’ll get in the kitchen and work on measurements.

But this may be one family recipe that stays that way…

3 Responses to “Nuoc Mam Gung – The ultimate Vietnamese dipping sauce”

  1. dosirakbento August 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

    Isn’t it funny how family recipes never seem to have measurements?

    • amandare August 9, 2014 at 7:15 am #

      So true! Whenever I pause to scribble or type in rough notes or measurements, she just shakes her head. I’ll get there eventually!

  2. Your Husband August 19, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    Don’t be giving away my mama’s secrets. Ginger won’t be the only thing she pulverizes!

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