When talking about Vietnamese foods, sauces are always indispensable. Beside nuoc mam, chilli sauce is part of many Vietnamese tasty dishes. But there are many different kinds of chilli sauce and each dish is best served with a specific kind. Below is the list of the most popular chilli sauces and the dishes that they are best for.
Please note that this article is about Northern style of eating, it might be significantly different from the Middle and Southern style.
Pho chilli sauce
In the North, pho is often served with this specific kind of chilli sauce, so people often call it “tương ớt phở” in Vietnamese and some people might call it “sriracha” in English. This kind of chilli sauce often has orange color and does not have powder so it has the texture as seen in the picture above. The taste of garlic in this chilli sauce is strong and lightly sour so it is very stimulating and makes your mouth waters.
This chilli sauce is best for the following dishes:
- All kinds of pho
- Bún (rice vermicelli): Bún dọc mùng (indian taro),…
- Nem: Nem chua (fermented pork), nem Phùng (pork skin),…
- All kinds of sandwich-style stuffed banh mi
Chopped chilli sauce
Similar to the pho chilli sauce, this chopped chilli sauce has a stronger sourness and is often home-made. It will ferment quickly if it is not reserved well, but the sourness is very alluring when it is perfectly fermented. It serves for the same dishes as the pho chilli sauce.
Sweet chilli sauce
This is the kind of chilli sauce that you see bottled and sold in supermarkets. It’s thick, sticky and sweety, and it has powder so it does not dissolve well in soups, that’s why in the North it’s not preferred to be served with phở and bún. However, due to its stronger stickiness and sweetness, it is perfect for fried foods.
Stir-fried chilli sauce
Stir-fried chilli sauce, or “ớt chưng”, “sa tế” in different regions in Vietnam, is made of dry chilli powder by stir-frying. This kind of chilli sauce is often very spicy and is served for: bún ốc (snail vermicelli), bún riêu (crab vermicelli), hot pot, etc. You never see this stir-fried chilli sauce in Pho restaurants, if you do, the restaurant owner might be an amateur, at least from my point of view.