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Thai dipping sauce is often served with strips of fish, grilled chicken, shrimp, Thai spring rolls, or stuffed dumplings. There are only a few rules for creating your own Thai dipping sauce, meaning you can choose your favorite Asian flavors and combine them. Typically, Thai dipping sauce recipes include both spicy and sweet notes, as well as something salty. The base is usually soy sauce, fish sauce, or rice vinegar.
The first choice you have to make when choosing a Thai dipping sauce involves the base. Fish sauce has a very salty, distinctively fishy flavor that some enjoy and others find very unpleasant. Soy sauce is dark, salty, and savory, while rice vinegar is light, acidic, and very subtle. Choose the base that most appeals to your personal tastes, since there are no wrong choices. You may also mix bases, choosing two or mixing all three together. You can add just a little of each at a time until you discover a pleasant combination.
The next thing to consider for your Thai dipping sauce is additional flavoring. These are usually herbs and spices, both fresh and dried, which give the dipping sauce a very Asian flavor. Traditional Thai dipping sauce recipes may contain lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chives, and hot pepper flakes. You may add a little of all of these ingredients, or just combine your favorites. A sweet sauce might contain ginger, lemongrass, and sugar mixed with rice vinegar and a little soy sauce. A more savory recipe might contain a base of fish sauce and soy sauce mixed with garlic, hot pepper flakes, and chives.
Fresh or powdered versions of all of your herbs may be used, but fresh ingredients tend to imbue Thai dipping sauce with more flavor. When chopped, fresh herbs release their juices and aromas into the sauce base. Cooks sometimes prepare their dipping sauces ahead of time and let them marry for several hours before serving them. This helps the sauces taste finished.
Sugar and carrots are also popular ingredients in Thai dipping sauce. Carrots, especially when grated or finely julienned, give the sauce a light sweetness and soak up plenty of the flavor from the sauce. This means the carrots may be spread over the food being dipped to add flavor without soaking that food in the sauce. Many cooks use sugar to counteract acidity and spiciness, so if you taste your sauce and its flavors are overwhelming, a spoonful of sugar might help.
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