International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Nuoc Mau

Nuoc Mau Recipe (Vietnamese caramel sauce)

(Vietnamese caramel sauce)

Image Creative Commons by jessicafm

Average: 4 (4 votes)

Nuoc mau may be a caramel sauce, but it's not the kind you pour over ice cream. This rich and slightly bitter concoction gives a complex dimension of flavor to many Vietnamese dishes, especially braised dishes known as kho. You can buy it premade from an Asian market, but homemade nuoc mau is easy and oh-so-much better.

Makes about 3/4 cup


  • Sugar -- 1 cup
  • Water -- 1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup


  1. Add the sugar and 1/4 cup of the water to a small saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium-low flame and cook, stirring, until the sugar just starts to turn dark brown, around 10 to 15 minutes. The color should be roughly that of black coffee, and the sugar will start to lightly smoke.
  2. Remove from heat and immediately and carefully pour the remaining 1/2 cup water into the caramelized sugar. Be prepared for a lot of noise and boiling. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for several weeks.


  • If you don't want to make your own caramel syrup, you can use the commercial version found in many Asian markets. A common brand calls it "coco caramel surup." Or try using Indonesian kecap manis.


If you follow this recipe, you will not get nuoc mau. Once the sugar is dissolved in the water, you have to stop stirring. If you continue to stir, the sugar will form back into crystals. It will never brown. You will keep adding water and stirring, but you will never get nuoc mau. The trick is to leave it alone once it starts to bubble. If you see crystals forming, lift the pan from the stove and swirl. Gently. If that causes sugar to creep up the side of the pan, take a pastry brush and dip it in the water that you add at the end. Brush onto the spots where sugar started to crystallize.

Anyway, this recipe is incorrect. You can try it, but I'm willing to bet that if you stir while the sugar is caramelizing, you won't achieve success.