banh mi sandwich with a side of nuoc cham sauce photo by jonathan gayman

2 Asian-inspired sauces that make almost any dish better


These are two sauces that you need to have in your refrigerator at all times. My family calls the first Magic Sauce. It’s sticky, salty, sweet, spicy and a little funky. It’s our favorite condiment and is perfect as a glaze on salmon, chicken, pork, steak and tofu or drizzled over rice and vegetables.


Creamy nuoc cham is based on a Vietnamese dipping sauce and works as a dressing for Asian-inspired slaw (shaved Brussels sprouts, carrots, napa cabbage, sliced almonds, cilantro and basil) or atop roasted carrots, tofu and chicken. It’s also great as a spread on homemade veggie bahn mi sandwiches. I like thinly sliced cucumber, radish, carrot, red onion, lettuce and herbs on a toasted baguette.


Magic Sauce
About 1¼ cup


1 cup kecap manis* (Indoesian sweet soy sauce)
¼ cup sambal or chili-garlic sauce
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. fish sauce or lime juice


• In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Sauce will keep in the refrigerator up to 4 weeks.


*Kecap manis is available at international grocery stores, or you can make your own by combining equal parts soy sauce and brown sugar and cooking over low heat until it reaches a thick, syrupy texture.


Creamy Nuoc Cham
About 2 cups


¼ cup sliced shallots
¼ cup water
3 Tbsp. brown sugar, plus more to taste
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
4 smashed garlic cloves
1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. sambal or chili garlic paste, plus more to taste
3 to 4 sprigs cilantro (optional)
¼ cup vegetable oil
Kosher salt, to taste


• In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the shallots, water, brown sugar, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the ginger and garlic are soft, about 8 minutes. Let cool.


• Add the mixture to a food processor or blender, along with the lime juice, mayonnaise, sambal and cilantro. Blend until smooth. 


• With the blender running, drizzle in the vegetable oil until emulsified. Season to taste with additional sugar, sambal and salt. The sauce will keep in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.


Dee Ryan is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine. 

Tags : Recipes