Nuoc mau (pronounced ‘nook mao’, originating from south Vietnam) is the irresistible caramel syrup that is key to many traditional Vietnamese dishes. It is especially important in stews and for marinating meat and seafood. The syrup gives these dishes their distinctive flavors and dark color. You can use nuoc mau anytime you want to barbecue meat by simply adding a tablespoon to your normal marinade. Do not mistake this for a sweet caramel sauce – this will not go well on your dessert! Nuoc mau is easy to make and it lasts forever, so you might as well make up a little batch to keep on reserve.
- • 1 cup of sugar
- • ¼ cup of water, plus another ½ cup of water
- 1. Heat the sugar and ¼ cup of water in a thick-bottom saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir lightly until the sugar is dissolved (tip: once the sugar is dissolved, do not stir anymore, as this will destroy the caramelizing process; you can swirl the saucepan a bit if you need to). The sugar mixture will slowly turn opaque and start to bubble.
- 2. After about 15-20 min., the sugar will slowly turn darker in color, which indicates the sugar is starting to caramelize. Continue boiling the sugar mixture until it turns black and smoke starts to rise.
- 3. Take the saucepan off the heat and carefully pour ½ cup of water into the mixture. This might be a bit scary as the contact between the burning hot caramel and lukewarm water will create a loud sizzle. The water will make the sugar mixture lumpy, so continue to heat the mixture until the lumps are gone. Swirl the pot to speed the process.
- 4. Let the nuoc mau cool off
- Store it in an airtight jar at room temperature in a dark cabinet.