My mother was making nem chua (pronounced: nem joo) last week so I quickly took the opportunity to document the process of making this much loved snack.
For those who aren’t familiar with nem chua, it is finely ground pork mince that is fermented, studded with peppercorns, Vietnamese mint, raw garlic and slices of fresh chilli, and then wrapped in a banana leaf.

nem chua ingredients

It tastes sweet, salty, sour and spicy. Our homemade versions are packed with extra garlic and chilli so they’re even more pungent.
Shapes and sizes vary from small long sticks to squares and sometimes, even in large containers full, where you’d slice and serve as much or as little as you need.
Nem chua is typically considered a snack. In Sydney, you should be able to find ready-made ones in Vietnamese bakeries (they add it in banh mi bread rolls) or in the refrigerated section of Asian grocers, and of course along the streets of Cabramatta where old ladies sell their homemade versions.

nem chua - vietnamese fermented pork rolls

In Vietnam, some regions honour their nem chua recipe so much that it gets named after the district and takes on a life of its own. There are varietal flavours in regions such as Lai Vung (Dong Thap Province), Thu Duc (Ho Chi Minh City), Ninh Hoa (Khanh Hoa Province), Dong Ba (Hue City), Thanh Hoa City, Uoc Le Village (Ha Dong Province), Ve Village (Hanoi) and Quang Yen (Quang Ninh Province), where they may replace certain ingredients with things such as guava leaves, fig leaves or powdered grilled rice.
My father tells me that his all time favourite is Nem Chua Thu Duc so I’ll have to make sure I get myself back to Vietnam for a taste of it soon!
In the meantime, I’m extremely delighted to have learned this homemade version.

jennifer aka jenius making nem chua

Nem Chua (Vietnamese fermented pork rolls
Makes 20

Ingredients
1kg lean pork mince (ask the butcher to grind it twice further)
2 packs Lobo nam powder seasoning mix
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bulb garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
100g pork skin strips (if frozen, defrost, rinse and dry)
1 bunch Vietnamese mint
Chillies, to your taste
Plastic wrap
Banana leaves
Elastic bands
Tissue paper
Method
In a mixing bowl, combine the pork, fish sauce, ground pepper, peppercorns, pork skin strips and half the garlic. Using your hands, combine the ingredients.
Add the contents of the curing mix packets and knead until sticky.
To wrap, cut a piece of plastic wrap and place a few Vietnamese mint leaves, garlic and chilli.

making nem chua - Vietnamese mint, garlic and chilli

Add the meat mixture.

making nem chua - adding the minced pork

Roll it firmly to your desired shape and fold the edges of the plastic wrap over to seal.

making nem chua -rolling it up

To prepare the banana leaves for wrapping, cut off the central rib and trim off the edges. To make the leaves more flexible, slightly heat in warm water, in the oven for a few minutes or over a small flame but do not burn. Wipe the leaves clean then wrap a piece of tissue paper or napkin around the nem chua, followed by a banana leaf.

making nem chua - another layer of tissue followed by banana leaf

Tie together with an elastic band and package tightly in a plastic container to ensure they keep its shape.
Cure for 24 – 48 hours before serving.

making nem chua -the finished parcels

Consume within one week.

nem chua - vietnamese fermented pork snacks

13 COMMENTS

  1. I use to gt a couple pounds of this from a Vietnamese family I worked with. it is due bomb! And yes, it is eaten raw… But you have to understand it is “cured”. I believe I was told that the powder that is added is an enzyme activator and the pepper and the garlic have additional “curing” properties. Hey, you don’t want to know the method and length of time gourmet staples like procuitto are cured and aged. Warning: Nem is incredibly addictive. :-)

  2. That’s an interesting observation! I think it was used traditionally in Vietnam because it was a material that was easily accessible. Maybe plastic wrap was introduced as a modern way of preventing bacteria from forming during the curing process.

  3. What is the banana leaf for? I don’t believe its for flavour if there is a plastic barrier in between the meat and leaf/

  4. Wow, I was waiting to see if this was going to be steamed but raw makes it definitely interesting, I think it would really absorb all the goodness of the added herbs and chilli!
    totally agree with phuoc – this is one that is best served with a beer!

  5. Haha I was going to ask the same thing about it being eaten raw. I actually did a double take of the recipe wondering where the cooking was lol. But ham? Hell yeah!

  6. YUM! That’s so easy! I thought the curing process would’ve taken at least few weeks as that’s what my great aunt did back in the day…
    Perfect snack to have with a beer! Thanks for sharing the recipe with us :)

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