Vietnamese Caramel Sauce:::Nuoc Mau

IMG_5325 copyLearning to make caramel is almost as important as making everyday fish sauce for Vietnamese Cuisine. For braised dishes, I typically just caramelize the sugar right in the pot I’m cooking with, but when I want to marinade meats I like to have a lot available. It’s fairly easy to make once you have the science down. You need to use hot water at the end not room temperature or else your sugar will just solidify. It’s also important to be very careful because hot sugar will splatter and you can easily burn yourself and anyone else standing nearby.  When letting the sugar caramelize you let the sugar darken until it reaches the color you like. Anywhere from golden brown to a dark brown is good. For me, I prefer very dark brown. To reach my preferred color my sugar cooks on medium heat for about 23-25 minutes. Check out my video below for making Vietnamese Caramel Sauce!

Vietnamese Caramel Sauce, Nuoc Mau
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup room temperature water
1/2 cup hot water

1. In a pot on medium heat combine sugar and 1/4 cup water.2. Stir until there are no clumps of sugar.3. Let heat stirring every now and then.4. When the sugar turn dark brown or your desired color, carefully add in the hot water. 5. You may have to do this in two steps to avoid getting hit with hot burning sugar!6. Stir again, let cool, and transfer to jar.



Making lunch for Little Sissy’s Bachelorette Weekend

My little sister is getting married! Well both of them are, but one of them is only 2 months away! This weekend we celebrated her bachelorette in San Diego. It was a very nice laid back weekend. Nothing crazy…except during the pool at night… but I’ll respect the privacy of some people and not mention too much LOL.
IMG_4804During the planning of the bachelorette, my sister was going to have a private chef come and make us lunch but with expenses adding up, she decided to nix that idea. To my surprise and (initial horror) she asked me to make them lunch and maybe do a little cooking course for the girls. As fun as that idea sounded, aside from my family, I’ve never cooked for a large group before, let alone people I have never met! My first reaction and answer was a quick and horrified, NO! hahaha but it WAS for my little sister and how can I continue to write about cooking and food when I turn down such a good opportunity to cook and do something I love especially for someone that I love? And so…. I accepted.

Immediately, we finalized a menu.
Shrimp Summer rolls– Easy enough. I just needed to tweak my sauce.
Grilled Pork Vermicelli (Bun Thit Nuong)- This was going to take more time. I’ve made the marinade for this meat before but I didn’t have a recipe that I could confidently replicate.
Vietnamese Fruit Cocktail– Opening cans…easy.
Lychee Sangria– Never made it before but how can anything with lychee and elderberry extract to be bad right?


Testing out the peanut sauce was easy enough. It doesn’t require that many ingedients and I already had a base recipe that was good. Eventually I came up with a sauce that I was very happy with and the secret ingredient was coconut milk!

For the grilled pork- This was a bit more stressful and required more time. As good as it is, I didn’t want to give my family grilled pork too many times within a short period. In total, I made it twice and tweaked my recipe 3 times. By the bachelorette weekend, I still wasn’t sure how it would turn out…but it was the best marinade I’ve made and I’m saving the recipe for sure!
All in all, it was a bit stressful planning and preparing for the lunch, but on the day of everything went just swimmingly…I might even say perfect, especially with help from my other sister and a few other people. The most important thing to me was the taste and flavors and I couldn’t have asked for all the dishes to come out better! My concern with the meat was undercooking or overcooking the meat, but it turned out great! It was my first time cooking at such an important event for people that weren’t my family. I gotta say…there’s a lot to be said for thoughtful preparation! I wish I had more pictures of the lunch but it was just too hectic. I hope you enjoyed the ones I did take!
Now…my other sister is getting married next year…what will be on the menu then? =)IMG_4798
Congrats Sissy V! Looking forward to your big day!

Soy Marinated Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

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Today I have 2 recipes in 1! Actually, I posted the Pineapple Salsa recipe a while back, so I guess I just have one recipe. But it’s still a yummy one. It’s a very simple marinade for salmon. I adapted it from a Betty Crocker Recipe I found online. I use dark soy sauce in the recipe for a darker color, but if you don’t have it, or prefer your salmon to stay more light in color then just substitute dark soy sauce for regular soy sauce.

The marinade taste great on salmon or white fish. My previous post I used it for tilapia. This is great summer time recipe. Fresh ingredients with pineapple, cucumbers, and tomatoes. For best results you should grill the salmon. But if you don’t have access to a grill or just prefer baking it, no worries, baked salmon will still taste wonderful.

Soy Marinated Salmon (adapted from Betty Crocker)
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs dark soy sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs honey
2 Tbs melted butter or olive oil
2 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbs green onions

  1. Combine all ingredients and marinate the salmon for 1 hour.
  2. Grill on medium heat for about 5 minutes per side.
  3. Remove onto a platter and top with the fresh pineapple salsa!

It’s simple as that.
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Vietnamese Ginger Lime Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Gung)


This is my favorite sauce to go with Hainanese Chicken and Rice. I love making this in a mortar and pestle because it gives the sauce a nice thick consistency and really brings out the ginger and garlic. But if you don’t want to use a mortar and pestle, you can always finely mince the ingredients and mix everything together. It will still taste great! This sauce is a pretty sweet sauce compared to Nuoc Mam Cham or everyday fish sauce for dipping. If you’re just making this for the first time, start with 3 Tbs of sugar and increase to 4 if you like. For me, 3.5 Tbs was perfect sweetness for me.

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Vietname Ginger Lime Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Gung)
2 inch ginger, cut into slices (3 Tbs ginger)
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (1 Tbs garlic)
1 Thai chili, roughly chopped*
3-4 Tbs sugar (start with 3 and can add more as desired)
3 Tbs fish sauce
4 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs water
Makes about 1 cup of sauce

1. In a mortar and pestle*, smash ginger and garlic into a paste
2. Add pepper and mashed into ginger garlic paste
3. Transfer to a small bowl
4. Add sugar (start with 3 and add more to desired taste)
5. Add fish sauce, lime juice, and water
6. Stir to combine all ingredients
7. Transfer to serving bowl

* If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you could also just mince the ginger, garlic, and pepper up very finely.
* Start with 3 Tbs of sugar and you can always add more according to your preference.
* Same with the Thai Chili pepper, start with 1 and you can aways add more later!

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