Nutty Fermented Soy Bean Dipping Sauce

Source: Cameron Stauch, author, Vegetarian Vietnam

Recipe Type: | Seasons: , , ,

I learned how to make this divine central Vietnamese sauce from Bội Trân, a well-known Huế artist and cook. Its rich, salty flavor comes from fermented soybeans (tu’o’ng). Puréeing half of the toasted peanuts and sesame seeds thickens the sauce and adds body. The rest are finely chopped and added to the sauce at the end. For an extra kick, I often add finely chopped garlic and chile. Follow Bội Trân’s lead and serve it alongside raw and tender boiled vegetables as part of a simple rice meal. This sauce can be made in advance and kept refrigerated for several days. If made more than a day in advance, it may separate a bit. Give it a quick stir before serving. 

Makes 1 cup


1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion, white and light green parts only
2 tablespoons fermented soybeans or soybean paste
2 tablespoons roasted unsalted peanuts
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 ¼ teaspoons cornstarch


To prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallion and cook for about 1 minute, until softened. Add the fermented soybeans, 1 tablespoon each of the peanuts and sesame seeds, the sugar, and ¾ cup of the water. Give it a good stir. Immediately remove the pot from the heat and transfer all of the contents to a blender. Purée briefly on the blender’s lowest setting and then increase to medium or high speed for a minute. Pour the sauce back into the saucepan.

To cook the sauce: In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon cold water, then stir into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for a couple of minutes, or until it is slightly thickened and lightly coats the back of a spoon. Transfer to a serving bowl to cool.

To serve: Finely chop the remaining peanuts. Stir the peanuts and the remaining sesame seeds into the sauce. Serve at room temperature. 


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