Many traditional Vietnamese dishes have a touch of caramel sauce giving them the typical brown color or sticky caramel character. Vietnamese dishes that use caramel sauce often have the word kho in the name. But kho can also refer to ‘stew’ or to ‘braise’.
When making Nuoc mau you heat the sugar until the desired color and thickness without burning. It is a difficult technique. Friends and family often ask my mother for a jar of caramel sauce, because they always fail to create the proper substance.

During the heating of sugar you’re continuously monitoring the pan. At a point a burning smell is created which is not very nice to be in. So make a stock pot and always have some available. With a pinch of salt you can store the caramel sauce for a year. Caramelizing sugar is not free from splashing, so take good care that you do not burn yourself.

Take about this ratio of sugar and water

  • 4 (server) soup-ladle granulated sugar
  • 1 soup-ladle water, add extra half a soup-ladle if you want to be more sure
  • 1 extra soup-ladle water
  • pinch of salt, to store the caramel sauce longer
  • heavy saucepan, higher than the amount of sauce
  • keep some water ready in the sink


  1. Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over high heat. Move once with the pan to distribute the sugarwater over the surface. Leave the pan on the fire now. Don’t turn the cooker hood on, because the smoke is required in order to keep an eye on the process.
  2. The sugar is slowly tanning.When a brown color emerge, you scrape sugar off the edges of the pan and stir that just a moment in the mixture. A little smoke begins to emerge.
  3. Only when the color has turned dark, you can stir the caramel to distribute the mixture and dissolve it.
  4. The sugar mixture is bubbling and still more smoke is developing.
  5.  Place the pan gently in the sink (with a little water). The caramel cools quickly. Carefully add about 1 extra soup-ladle of water. Beware of splashing.
  6.  Put the pan back on high heat. The caramel has become lumpy syrup. Now it is time to dissolve the syrup well in the extra water.
  7. Once the syrup is dissolved and the caramel sauce begins to bubble, add a pinch of salt.
  8. Let the caramel bubble for a while. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool.
  9. Store in a jar with a lid preferably in the pantry. In the refrigerator, the caramel sauce will thicken slightly, that is okay when your caramel has a watery substance.