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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nem Chua (Cured/Fermented Beef)

"...Mừng ngày Tết ta chúc cho nhau
Một năm thêm sung túc an vui
Người nông dân thêm lúa thóc
Người thương gia mau phát tài..."

Next on our Tết menu is Nem Chua. This savory, addicting Nem Chua  is usually served as an h'orderve with raw garlic and fresh chili pepper. It has a sweet, sour, salty, spicy taste with a rubbery texture.  And once you have tasted one, you cannot help but continue, until you realize your tongue is on fire.

Traditionally, the main ingredients are minced pork, shredded  pork skin and a mixture of seasoning.  The mixture is then wrapped in a thin layer of an aromatic, fresh leaf of guava (lá ổi),  or Otaheite gooseberry leaf  (lá chùm ruột), then in another layer of banana leaf; it's then formed into boxy roll. These rolls are then stored for the natural fermentation process for a few days in a cool place before they are ready to eat.   You can either eat it from the leaf or charcoat grill it. 

Instead of pork, I made a batch of beef Nem Chua as it's safer for my children to eat and it also takes less days to cure it.  The recipe below can be used   for both Pork and Beef Nem Chua
* * *
RECIPE: Nem Chua


3 lbs of extra Lean Beef or Pork, ask the butcher to ground three times
1 lb  bag or 2 bags of 7 oz frozen Shredded Cooked Pork Skin (available at Asian grocers in different sizes) 
1 tbsp roasted Whole Peppercorns
1 teaspoon Ground Pepper
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) Sugar
3 tablespoons Smirnoff Triple Distilled Vodka 
3 bags of Nam Powder Seasoning Mix (available at Asian grocers)
Thai chile, sliced into small pieces
1 head of Garlic, thinly sliced
13 x 9 inches Quarter Baking Sheet
Preparing Meat  and Meat Mixture

Beef - choose beef that has the leanest cuts of beef  such as eye round, top round, round tip, top sirloin, bottom round, top loin, and tenderloin. You can also get extra lean ground beef  which has 95 percent lean at any supermarkets then ground two more times.

Pork - choose the leanest pork cuts, look for the word “loin” in the name, such as pork tenderloin or sirloin chop.  You can also get extra lean ground pork then ground two more times.

Shredded Pork Skin -  Rinse in salt and water, then rinse a few more time with water. Squeeze out excess water and allow to dry. Cut into about 2 inches strings. 

In a large bowl, combine the pork or beef,  pork skin, sugar,  ground pepper, whole peppercorns, wine, and the seasoning mix except those little bags you find inside the seasoning mix  bags. Mix really well with your hands (you might need to use plastic gloves). 

Add those little bags of seasoning mix and continue mix it until it gets  sticky and all the mixtures distribute evenly. 

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap.  Spread the mixture in a baking sheet.  If you have another quarter baking sheet, put it on top of the mixture baking sheet and press it down until it's packed and evenly.   Cover it up with another plastic wrap and aluminum foil.  Place it at a cool place and allow it to cure for at least 2 days.  If it's pork nem chua, it will take at least an extra day to cure.

When done, the beef Nem Chua will turn red and the pork Nem Chua will have a light pink color.  Slice Nem Chua  into small sizes.  Place a piece of chili pepper and a slice of garlic on top of Nem Chua then wrap each individually with plastic wrap or banana leaf.  Store in the frigde to keep it from getting extra sour. 

I wrapped a few in banana leave which I much prefer because of  its aroma, but for the sake of time and convenience, I switch to plastic wrap instead. 



  1. Whoa I had no idea you were from Elk Grove! I grew up South Sacramento my entire life and now I live in San Diego, CA.

    I occasionally check your blog from time to time and I have it saved on my reader from when I was googling some che recipes.

    Keep up the great work! Your recipes and pictures are amazing and since my mom still lives back in Sacramento, I can learn these traditional dishes through you!

  2. yum my favorite, goes down well with lots of beer lol

  3. Hi Cherry, thanks for your support. Hope you get to make some of the new year dishes.

  4. Your Nem Chua looks so tempting. You were right about "ăn 1 miếng là muốn ăn thêm nữa và không ngưng được". You gave me a great idea to prepare Nem Chua with beef since beef is safer. May I copy down your recipe and I will definately give it a try soon. Thanks so much Loan

  5. chi oi bua nao chi post cach nau bun bo hue va bun mam duoc kg chi...thank you

  6. Bún Bò thì đã chụp pixtures for this recipe het roi nhung de hom nao chi se post len.
    Bún Mam chị đã posted roi mà? Đe chi xem lai...

  7. thanks for sharing your recipe. been searching for a detail nem recipe for a long time. i've tried making it once but the given instructions weren't as detail and my pork nem turned out brown. didn't know the little package inside the big nem seasoning mix was supposed to be used in the pork so i threw it away. will give your recipe a try and hopefully it will turn out as good as yours. thanks again.

  8. It's my pleasure. The little bag inside the seasoning mix bag is very important. Without it, your nem chua won't turn out right. Enjoy cooking!

  9. Hi
    You have a very nice and decent blog here. I was looking for Vietnamese Head Cheese recipe but I couldn't remember its name until I tumbled to your site. I will try it for sure one day but I am worry about fat and calorie intake. I am a runner so I need to watch my diet, by the way I live in Folsom so we might have chance to meet some day, I like to taste all your recipe. Thank You again. Cam on nhieu

  10. Hi chi Loan, if I keep these in the fridge, how long will they last? Thank you!

  11. You can keep it in the fridge for about 3 weeks.

  12. Detailed recipe thank you. What kind of a good wine can i use specifically. I really like this version

  13. hello there, thank you for the recipe. do you know brand of wine would like well for pork version of this recipe?

  14. You can use any whiskey for both pork or beef. XO would probably be preferable.

  15. Have you ever tried freezing this? You thoughts would be most appreciated. Thank you.

  16. I haven't tried freezing Nem Chua yet as they usually run out fast. I usually keep them in the fridge and finish them within 2 weeks. But you might want to try a few pieces first then let me know how it turns out. Thanks

  17. What happens if you don't leave it outside to cure, but put it in the fridge?

  18. Is there a curing mix out there that does not use MSG? I need to know as I am intolerant to MSG and need to find a substitute. My wife used that exact mix she got from the market in Little Saigon. Unfortunately I reacted to it (btw is was delicious) and found after the fact that msg was part of the mix.

  19. i used rice wine on the pork. is it okay?

  20. rice wine is sweet so I am not sure if it's okay. I haven't tried it.

  21. Thank you for this simple instruction. I've been wanting to make this for a very long time but always thought it was too compliacted.

  22. Let me share with you how important the wine part is. Hehehe. I did the first batch perfectly and the second batch off memory and of course I forgot wine. That whole batch went in the trash. ;) the third time I ran out of wine and so I used patron instead and it's soooo yummy!!! Thanks for sharing.

  23. Dear Loan, your recipes indicated that 12 table spoon of sugar? That is a lot of sugar. What about salt?