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What is che in vietnam?

Vietnam is a country with a rich and vibrant food culture. Vietnamese cuisine is known for its balance of flavors, textures, and colors. One integral ingredient used in many Vietnamese dishes is che. But what exactly is che, and how is it used in Vietnamese cooking?

What is Che?

Che, sometimes spelled nước chấm, refers to a variety of Vietnamese dipping sauces. The term che is derived from the Vietnamese word for sauce (nước chấm).

At its most basic, che consists of fish sauce, lime juice, water, sugar, garlic, and chili peppers. However, there are many variations of che using different ingredients and flavors. Here are some of the main types of che dipping sauce:

  • Nuoc mam che – made primarily with fish sauce, lime juice, water, and sugar
  • Nuoc mam pha – fish sauce diluted with water
  • Nuoc cham – fish sauce, lime juice, water, sugar, garlic, chili
  • Nuoc cham chim – fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, bird’s eye chilies
  • Nuoc leo – fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, garlic, chili

Other ingredients like ginger, shallots, tamarind, or pineapple may also be added to create different flavor profiles. The result is a versatile dipping sauce that can taste salty, sour, sweet, and spicy.

How is Che Used in Vietnamese Cuisine?

In Vietnamese cooking, che is not meant to be consumed on its own. Rather, it is used as a dipping sauce or table condiment to accompany a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes.

Here are some of the most common ways che is used:

  • Pho: Che is an essential condiment for Vietnam’s national dish, pho noodle soup. It is added to individual bowls to adjust the broth’s flavor.
  • Spring rolls: A bowl of che is served alongside fresh and fried spring rolls to dip each bite into before eating.
  • Bánh mì: Spicy or tangy che is often drizzled onto the iconic Vietnamese sandwiches known as bánh mì.
  • Bún: Bowls of bún, thin rice vermicelli noodles, are accompanied by che for dipping meat, herbs, and other ingredients into.
  • Seafood: Grilled shrimp, fish, squid, and other fresh seafood are commonly served with a side of nuoc cham dipping sauce.
  • Meat dishes: Che can be used as a dip for grilled pork, chicken, or beef dishes like thịt nướng.
  • Salads: Vietnamese salad rolls and other vegetable-based salads are enhanced by che dressings.

In addition to dipping, che can also be used as a marinade, salad dressing, or cooking ingredient to impart flavor. Versatile che sauce brings the needed salty, sour, sweet, and spicy flavors to balance and complete Vietnamese meals.

Variations by Region

There are some regional differences in how che sauce is prepared in Vietnam:

Region Style of Che
Northern Vietnam Tends to be sweeter with more sugar added
Central Vietnam Often called nước chấm and has more garlic and chili
Southern Vietnam Nuoc cham has more fish sauce and lime

These regional differences show how che can be adapted based on local tastes and ingredient availability. But no matter where you are in Vietnam, some form of dipping sauce is sure to be on the table.

Common Ingredients in Che

As noted above, while che recipes can vary, they usually contain some combination of these essential ingredients:

  • Fish sauce: Made from fermented anchovies, fish sauce called nuoc mam provides saltiness and savory umami flavor.
  • Lime juice: Fresh lime juice balances the fish sauce’s saltiness with acidic sourness.
  • Water: Water dilutes and thins the sauce for a better consistency.
  • Sugar: Sugar balances out flavors and provides sweetness.
  • Garlic: Minced garlic adds a pungent aroma.
  • Chili peppers: Birds eye chilies or other peppers bring spicy heat.

Knowing these key ingredients gives insight into the flavor profile that makes che so essential to Vietnamese cuisine.

How to Make Basic Che at Home

Want to make your own che at home? Here is a simple recipe to try:


  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (or vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Thai bird chilies, sliced (adjust to taste)


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to dissolve sugar.
  2. Taste and adjust flavor balance as desired, adding more lime, fish sauce, sugar, or chili.
  3. Transfer to a dipping bowl or other serving container.
  4. Serve with pho, spring rolls, grilled meats, and other Vietnamese dishes.

Feel free to experiment with ingredients to make your own signature che!

Ordering Che at Vietnamese Restaurants

When dining at a Vietnamese restaurant, che will likely already be provided as a condiment for dishes like pho and spring rolls. But you may want to order extra on the side, especially if you like heavily drizzling or dipping your food.

Here are some tips for ordering che at restaurants:

  • Ask if a specific type like nuoc cham or nuoc leo is available.
  • Request spicy, mild, or garlic-heavy versions to suit your tastes.
  • Ask for extra lime wedges if you like extra tang.
  • Portion sizes vary, but a full bowl for the table is common at some places.
  • If you’ll be sharing family-style, order extra che for dipping.
  • Check if there’s a chili sauce you can add to amp up the heat.

With these tips, you can get the perfect che to complement your Vietnamese meal!


Che dipping sauce is vital to Vietnamese cuisine, adding salt, spice, tang, and aroma to countless dishes. With its variations across regions, ingredients like fish sauce and lime, and uses in everything from pho to spring rolls, che brings that final touch of flavor. Both simple and complex, che sauce encapsulates the intricacies of Vietnamese food culture. Keep che on hand to dip, drizzle, and dunk your way through Vietnam’s incredible culinary traditions.