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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chả Lụa (Vietnamese Ham aka Vietnamese Pork Roll)

There is something special about Tết that every year around this time, I tend to work a lot harder just to maintain the house and keep it nice,  fresh, and presentable.   A day after the Solar New Year, I swapped things out to welcome in the new season. I spruced up my front hall with pots of hoa cúc vàng (chrysanthemum flower) and a vase of hoa anh đào (cherry blossom). The red envelops are hanging happily on the lucky tree.

My day is usually packed full of my two girls’ activities and chores around the house. But I always try to squeeze my cooking in between.  Therefore, I usually get my cooking done by the time the sun sets. So today after being my girls' chauffeur, I managed to get a new recipe Chả Lụa (Vietnamese Ham aka Pork Roll) done so I can post it in time for the new year. 

If you hear someone mentions about Giò Lụa, it is another name for Chả Lụa. The term Giò Lụa is part of the northern Vietnamese's dialect while Chả Lụa originates from southern Vietnamese dialect.

My experiment on Chả Lụa turned out beyond my expectation. I usually don't enjoy Chả Lụa as much but if I do eat Chả Lụa , I like it with lots of peppercorns and packed with flavors. So now that I make my own, I wanted my Chả Lụa to taste exactly as I would have imagined it, wrapped in the fragrance of banana leaves and accented by the spiciness of peppercorns.  I must admit there was one problem - it lack adequate banana leaves to contain and shape the Chả Lụa, leaving the center exposed after steaming.

However as soon as the Chả Lụa was off the steamer, my husband and kids devoured all the small Chả Lụa rolls. Hearing their enjoyment and compliments sure made my day.

2 pounds Ground Pork (bought mine at Walmart Superstore)
2 tablespoons good Fish Sauce (prefer 3 crabs brand)
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon fresh Ground Pepper
1 Shallot, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 cup ice water 
2 tablespoons Tapioca Flour (Bột Năng) 
1 bag Alsa Baking Powder or any single action Baking Powder brand (2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon Peppercorns
Banana Leaves (available at any Asian markets in the frozen section), rinsed and pat dried
Twine, to tie chả roll (plastic twine would work best)
Preparing Pork Paste

do not add peppercorns at this step.  I made a mistake

Mix pork, fish sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, shallot and garlic in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, add ice water, tapioca flour and mix it well. Then add baking powder and mix.  Baking powder causes a rapid expansion of the liquid and has a tendency to foam over.  

Pour the water mixture into the pork bowl and mix it well. Cover and place it in the freezer for about 3 hours until the pork paste is really cold or frosty but not yet frozen. You can also place it in the frigde overnight instead freezer. This process will help the meat to bind together.

Remove from freezer or fridge then place it in the food processor with half of the pork at a time; do not overload the work bowl. Process to a completely smooth paste. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Transfer the pork paste to another bowl.  Add peppercorns and mix well.  Place it back in the fridge until you're ready to wrap it up.

Wrapping Pork Paste

It was hard to tie with this type of twine.  Using plastic twine would be easier.

Wrap pork paste in at least 3 layers banana leaves. Make sure to keep your hands moist with cooking oil and also brush oil on the leave to prevent pork paste from sticking.

Tightly wraps into a cylindrical shape then fold the two ends in.  Use the twine to tie it tightly.

fold into a cylindrical shape

fold in the four sides of the two ends

trim the top if it's too long then fold in

tie it up with twine

mini Chả Lụa rolls

2 lbs of pork produces 2 big rolls and 4 mini rolls

Steam for about 20-25 minutes.


Chả Lụa tastes wonderfully when pan fry over high heat until the skin is golden brown. 

Enjoy Chả Lụa as appetizer or served along with nem chua (fermented beef), banh chung (square sticky rice cake), banh tet (cylindrical sticky rice cake). 

Chả Lụa is a versatile recipe, therefore, it served well with anything from banh mi (Vietnamese Baguette), banh day (sticky rice cake), banh cuon (Steamed rice rolls), and variety of noodle dishes such as bun bo hue, bun thang.

Chúc mọi nhà luôn ấm no !


  1. Can you advice why mine Cha lua shrunk after steaming/cooling? it did not retain the shape of the roll and thus not as bouncy as the bought one. thank you

  2. Hi Annette,
    I believe there is a typo in the section just before the wrapping of pork paste with banana leaves, instead of port paste - you wrote beef paste.

  3. Hi Loan,

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Been wanting to make these for a long time. Can't wait to get started!

    Please post your candied ginger recipe. I've tried several times, but hadn't had much luck with it.

    Happy New Year to you and your family! Wishing you another year full of inspiration & creations!


  4. Hi Loan, Happy new year to you to and family. Yes i tried your recipe and i also followed a lots of your other recipes. Most recipe that requires the Alsa baking powder has not been successful for me. Our baking powder here in Australia are double acting. I even tried to use two part of Cream of Tartar with one part of Baking Soda to replace the Single Acting baking powder requirement, but the results have not been the same also.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, Anita.

  5. Hi Anita, that explains it. If you want I can get the Alsa baking powder and mail it to you. You just pay me back the cost of the product and shipping fee.

  6. Hi chi loan, I am so happy today that I finally get to make this recipe and it turns out perfect. I've always wanted to learn how to make this but don't know how. I asked an elderly lady that's frirnd with my inlaw how to make it but she wouldn't tell me. Today, I've accomplished this recipe and my sons loving it. Thank you for your blog chi loan.

  7. Hello chi Loan, I've always wanted to try and make cha lua at home. One thing that concerns me is that we dont have Alsa baking powder here in New Zealand. Do you know what else that I can use to replace it? Thank you chi.

    1. Hi Tina, it doesn't have to be Alsa Baking Powder. You can use any baking powder brands as long as it is single-acting. The label will tell you if it is single-acting or double-acting.

  8. You might want to check for the banana leaves in the frozen section at the Asian market. If you still can't find it, aluminum foil would work too.