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Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nuong)

When I feel like torturing the neighbors, I take out the grill and cook up Nem Nướng, Vietnamese grilled pork sausage. I waft the aroma of this tasty Vietnamese sausage into their yard. That is what you get for taking my parking!

 Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage  (Nem Nướng)

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nướng)

For those who enjoy this tasty Vietnamese sausage and would like to quickly make it at home, you can find premade Nem Nuong in the frozen aisle of many Asian supermarkets. They are already seasoned. All you have to do is put them on sewers or roll them into balls. You can grill them up as intended. You can also bake or steam them. The premade Nem Nuong tastes exactly like the restaurant version. The only downside to using premade Nem Nuong is not knowing exactly what's in the pork, which can be scary to some people. Of course, buying premade Nem Nuong is not why you are here, right? Keep reading, my friend!

 Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage  (Nem Nuong). Please don't steal my pictures. Yes, I'm looking at you Vietnam tour sites!

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nuong). Please don't steal my pictures. Yes, I'm looking at you Vietnam tour sites!

If you want a little bit more control over the seasoning, you can make Nem Nuong from scratch. Nem Nuong is all about texture. That texture comes from a high amount of fat (Yep. This is why it tastes so good!) and grinding the pork into a paste. To get that perfect texture, select ground pork with at least 20% fat. I believe the highest is 30%. Then be flirtatious as possible and ask the butcher if they can run it through the grinder again. If they refuse (which is usually the case), stare down at them while slowly walking away without blinking. Good news for you is that you can still achieve the pork paste by putting the ground pork in a food processor. Grind it for a few minutes until you get a sticky homogeneous mixture.

 Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage  (Nem Nướng)

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nướng)

My mother-in-law, who is bestie with her butcher and who fears mystery meats in premade ground pork, prefers to get a slab of fatty pork shoulder/butt and then have her butcher friend grind it up twice. But she doesn't stop there. She also gets pork fat, free of charge, of which she cuts up into tiny cubes and adds them to the freshly ground ground pork. It's really all about that pork fat to get that perfect texture in Nem Nuong. For those who are also besties with the butcher, it is 1-part fatty pork shoulder/butt to 1/4-part pork fat.

(I also checked in with my mom on how she prepares Nem Nuong to which she replied that I shouldn't ask such ridiculousness because she's a vegetarian for a full year now and I should know better. Gotta love mom!)

 Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage  (Nem Nướng)

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nướng)

Almost every Nem Nuong recipe you look up online has baking powder. The use of the baking powder allows the meat to puff up. This makes it appear more voluminous when it's served immediately in restaurants. However, if you make a large batch of Nem Nuong and you use baking powder, any leftover Nem Nuong will look wrinkly and deflated, which is what happened to a few of my test batches. I would recommend skipping the baking powder if you are making this at home.

 Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage  (Nem Nuong)

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nuong)

To get the right flavor in Nem Nuong, I use a bit of Tusino Nem Nuong curing powder. Not only does the curing powder provide the signature pink color (from the added dye and sodium nitrite) but it also provides that unique cured flavor.

I had many times tried to make Nem Nuong without the use of Tusino Nem Nuong curing powder.  The reason I avoided it for the longest time was because of the preservatives, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. Both additives had been under fire on whether they cause cancer in humans. However, after doing some research, I wouldn't worry too much about its use. One, it's been approved by the FDA and its use in cured meats is very minimal. Two, these additives are also found in hot dogs, sandwich meat, bacon, and naturally in many vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and celery. So unless you are avoiding all these foods, I wouldn't worry.

 Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage  (Nem Nuong)

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nuong)

According to the package instructions, you can use the curing powder as the only seasoning in the meat to get the Nem Nuong flavor. You can also add minced garlic, if preferred. However, I'm not one to use only one ingredient for a marinade, especially one that is a possible human carcinogen in high concentration (can't be too safe!). So for my Nem Nuong recipe, I like to use a bit of the curing powder (much less than the package instructions) in addition to fish sauce, sugar, garlic... and unfortunately another highly controversial ingredient, MSG.

Nem Nướng is served in a variety of ways. For the lazies, you can have them with steamed white rice and a side of fresh or pickled vegetables. At the restaurants, you can have Nem Nướng  wrapped in rice paper (Nem Nướng Cuốn) with a side of the signature orange Nem Nướng dipping sauce. You can also have Nem Nướng with rice noodles (Bún Nem Nướng). In a Vietnamese deli, you can have it in a sandwich (Bánh Mì Nem Nướng). However you have it, it's a classic dish that will surely give you a unique taste of Vietnam. It's not the healthiest of meats, but it sure is damn delicoius. 

 Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nuong)

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nuong)

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem Nướng)

Ingredients

Serves 5-7

  • 2 lbs ground pork with at least 20% fat (have the butcher ground the pork twice or chop in a food processor until you get a smooth paste)
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon roasted rice powder (available in the spice section in Asian supermarkets)
  • 3 tablespoons Tusino Nem Nuong curing powder  
  • 1 teaspoon MSG

Instructions

  1. To the ground pork, add sugar, fish sauce, garlic, roasted rice powder, curing powder and MSG. Mix well.
  2. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight in the fridge for best results.
  3. Oil up your hands with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Add the marinated ground pork to skewers or roll them into balls.
  4. Grill or bake for 15-20 minutes.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Ca Ri Ga)

Just last week it was stormy and cold in California. I decided to make a large pot of Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà). Happiness is having a bowl of warm curry in the comfort of my home, while witnessing my annoying neighbor who looooves to stare into my soul retrieves her flying trash can down the street.

Every country has their own curry, but I, a full-fledged Vietnamese, is not biased at all when I say that the Vietnamese curry is the best one there is. It's not too pungent in spices. It's not too aromatic that it's overpowering and it's not too thick.

 Vietnamese Chicken Curry  (Ca Ri Ga)

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Ca Ri Ga)

Vietnamese chicken curry (ca ri ga) has a great blend of spicy yellow curry, lemongrass, garlic and onions, all stewed with root vegetables in a rich chicken and coconut milk broth. 

I like to have my chicken curry ladled over a bowl of steamed rice for a hearty meal. Other times I have my curry in a small bowl with a side of toasted baguette. 

 Vietnamese Chicken Curry  (Cà Ri Gà  )

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà)

Some people take the extra step of frying the potatoes before adding them to the stew. This is to prevent them from breaking apart in the curry. I like to keep this simple and not dirty up another pan so I skip the frying step entirely. To prevent the potatoes from overcooking and breaking apart, I recommend adding them to the stew toward the end of cooking.

Also, add the coconut milk towards the end of cooking to preserve its richness, flavor and aroma.

To get the most flavor out of the dish, use chicken thighs. For even more flavor,  use bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs. I had none so for my recipe below, I stuck with chicken tenders which still turned out great.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry Recipe (Ca Ri Ga)

Serves 5-7

Ingredients

Chicken Marinade

  • 2 lbs chicken (boneless chicken-thighs preferred, cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder

Curry

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
  • 5 garlic cloves (mince)
  • 1 large shallot (mince)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 19-oz can coconut milk
  • 1 lb of potatoes (peel and cut bite-size pieces)
  • 1 large white onion (slice into wedges)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 5 lemon leaves (optional; cut into thin strips)

Instructions

  1. Marinate the chicken with salt, sugar, pepper and yellow curry powder for at least 15 minutes. Overnight in fridge for best results.
  2. To make the curry, add vegetable oil to a medium-sized pot and heat on medium high.
  3. Add lemongrass, garlic, shallot, and curry powder. Saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. You want to sweat out the ingredients; not fry them. Lower the heat if necessary.
  4. Add marinated chicken and toss the chicken in the aromatic mixture until evenly coated.
  5. Add 1/2 cup water. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer on low for 30 minutes. The covered lid and low simmer will collect a lot of moisture for the broth.
  6. Add the coconut milk, potatoes, onion and rest of water (2 cups). Cover the pot but leave a small opening to prevent the coconut milk from boiling over. Simmer on low for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
  7. Season with salt and sugar. 
  8. Serve over a bowl of steamed white rice or with a side of toasted baguette. Top with a few sprinkles of julienned lemon leaves if desired.
Vietnamese Chicken Curry ca ri ga vicky pham