Nuoc Cham

Nuoc Cham (Vietnam)

2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small, hot, red chili pepper, seeds
    and membranes removed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 fresh lime, juice and pulp only
4 tablespoons fish sauce*
2 to 4 tablespoons water, according to taste

* Also known as nuoc mam, it is available in finer supermarkets and Asian specialty shops.

Purists insist that the garlic and chili pepper be ground together in a mortar and pestle, although acceptable results can be obtained by processing all the ingredients in a food processor. The traditional procedure is as follows:

Combine the garlic and chili pepper in a mortar and mash with the pestle until a paste is formed. Squeeze the lime juice into the paste, then remove the pulp from the lime and add it to the mixture. Mash to a paste again, and add the fish sauce and water, stirring to combine.

Makes about 1/2 cup to serve 4 to 6.