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.
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.
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.
Nem Chua (Vietnamese fermented pork rolls
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
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.
Add the meat mixture.
Roll it firmly to your desired shape and fold the edges of the plastic wrap over to seal.
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.
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.
Consume within one week.