Monday, January 18, 2010

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties)

My Nem Nuong and Nem Nuong Cuon (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty Salad Rolls) has long been one of the most popular recipes on the blog. Just basic meat patties the way everyone makes it in my hometown. No food coloring to make it pink. No baking powder to make the meat bouncy. Just slightly sweet mini hamburgers really.

I've never thought of, nor wanted to, change the basic premise of the recipe until I came across the idea of adding lemongrass to the meatballs in "Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart." I used my recipe instead, of course. Then I remembered Kirk of Mmm-yoso's Tamarind Cooking School pictures from his trip to Luang Prabang, Laos.

Lemongrass pork-stuffed lemongrass skewers!

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties) 2

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties)

Inspired by Kirk of Mmm-yoso's Tamarind Cooking School pictures in Luang Prabang, Laos and "Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart" and adapted from my recipe for Nem Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties)

For about 8 skewers, you'll need:
About 9 or more lemongrass stalks
1 lb ground pork (Sometimes I do a mix of half pork and half turkey. Grind your own pork if you prefer a firmer, leaner patty. Or just be lazy like me and buy it pre-ground.)
1/2 medium onion, pureed until almost mushy. There should be no visible chunks of onion. (You'll want to omit the onion though if you want your patties to be firm. The water in the onions will soften the meat.)
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced or pureed with the onions
1 lemongrass stalk, white parts only, finely sliced and pureed
1 tblsps sugar or honey
1 tblsps Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Finely slice and then puree 1 lemongrass stalk, white parts only.

Puree the onion and garlic until fine. Add the lemongrass, onion, and garlic to 1 lb of ground pork, 1 tblsp sugar, 1 tblsp fish sauce, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp ground black pepper. Set aside in fridge.

Clean and wash lemongrass stalks. Trim off roots and tops, saving about three inches of leaves for presentation.

With a sharp knife, cut into the stalk between the roots and tops like the photo below. Turn the lemongrass stalk and keep cutting about every 1/4-inch.

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties) 3

If you separate the cuts, it should look like the photo below.

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties) 4

Stuff the ground meat in between the layers of lemongrass stalk as much as you can. Each stalk should hold about 2 tblsp of meat. Extra meat can be frozen and used later, or rolled into meatballs or patties and cooked on the grill as well.

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties) 5

Grill until cooked.

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties) 6

Pretty cool, yeah?

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties) 7

You can serve the meat patty-filled lemongrass stalks to the guests, or remove them from the stems. Serve with rice or rice paper to be rolled up like my usual nem nuong recipe.

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties) 1


Other dishes from this dinner:
Baked Goat Cheese on Pesto and Tomato Sauce
Sup Ca Chua Dau Xanh (Vietnamese Green Bean and Tomato Egg Drop Soup)
Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves)
Nai Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Venison)

1 year ago today, goi buoi tom (Vietnamese pomelo salad with shrimp).
2 years ago today, best of 2007 recipes from Scallops and Pea Shoots to Tra Atiso (Vietnamese Artichoke Tea).
3 years ago today, dim sum at Restaurant Peony - Oakland.


  1. I would never have thought of this. Even though I love to cook asian food I don't cook with lemongrass enough b/c of it's availability. The presentation is amazing and I'm sure the flavor superb!

  2. Sounds and looks quite interesting! Everytime I eat nem nuong I think of your recipe. I always forget to try out your recipe instead of buying those weird plastic package ones- they taste good to me but the added stuff is weird!

  3. You are so creative WC! Since we add lemongrass to chicken, why not nem nuong?!

  4. What a fantastic way to serve your pork! I'll have to give this a try.

  5. Very cool, WC. Kudos on a beautiful, simple-looking dish. Can't wait to try it--Ill be inspired as I will be leaving tomorrow for LA, and will be spending Vietnamese New year in Westminster...Hmm, maybe I'll make them there and surprise my aunt! What's your all-time favorite Tet food?

  6. Curious Lissa,
    Lemongrass is available frozen and pureed, you can check the freezer aisle of your Asian grocery store to see if it's there. That's probably your best bet if you don't live in an area where fresh lemongrass is readily available.

    I've never bought nem nuong so I have no idea what the packaged stuff tastes like!


    Shh! That was gonna be my next experiment. Doing it the Laotian style with slivers of kaffir lime leaves with ground chicken and stuffing it in the lemongrass.

    Please do. I could only do meatballs in just so many ways.

    Thanks! Hmm. You'll have to let me know how your family receives it if you do end up making it. My favorite Tet food has to be banh tet, that's the whole point of it right? Have a safe trip!

  7. I can imagine the wonderful smell from Lemongrass and the delightful taste of nem noung!!! What a combination!

    As Always Great Job!

  8. Love your photos on this how-to! And is that a mini grill? I want one!

  9. Hey WC - Looks wonderful..... Thanks for the link. I still haven't tried making these, though they've been on my mind for a while!

  10. Aah, I remember this one, and that egg drop soup too. That was a good meal!

  11. Tigger Mum,
    Thanks! Haven't heard from you in a while.

    It's an indoor electric grill in a ceramic pan. Cleans up great, although it doesn't get very hot. I picked it up at the thrift store in brand new condition for $8. Unfortunately, JetBlue broke it in my luggage. :( Fortunately, my friend Tony of SinoSoul had some kind of industrial-strength glue and managed to glue it together again. Haha. That was long-winded. :P

    I have to try making these with the ground chicken and thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves. Thank you for the idea.

    Weren't they all good meals? :P

  12. This looks amazing! What a fragrant way to grill my favorite meat! Definitely passing this along!

  13. This is sooo cool! I'm going to try it ASAP. I bet it would be great with ground shrimps too.

  14. This looks so interesting! Can imagine the flavour would be spectacular with all that lemongrass infusion going on there.

  15. Showshanti,

    Oh yes, ground shrimp inside lemongrass. I'd give it maybe a bit of a tom yum seasoning to maximize the lemongrass notes? Sounds like a future recipe!

    Thanks! The lemongrass didn't flavor as much if I hadn't also added pureed lemongrass into the meat.

  16. this is such an amazingly gorgeous dish. I am looking for real charcoal to start grilling.

  17. Katie,
    Thanks! I hope you try it someday!

  18. I found your blog a few days ago, as I've been home from a 2 month trip through SE Asia for 3 weeks and am reproducing as much of the food I ate there as I possibly can. And I really *love* your writing about Vietnamese food! Definitely recognize a lot from my 3 weeks there.

    Anyway, I've been reading through your posts and while there were many that made me want to comment (positive!) this is the one where I really couldn't stop myself: I was in Luang Prabang and I had that very dish - and it was definitely one of the most memorable food in Laos for me! So thanks for sharing all this and bringing a smile on my face as well as great memories on my mind. :)

    (Sorry for the post saying anonymous; I can post with my livejournal ID - juupke - but it won't show it?! weird)

  19. Ah so now it does have my name - strange, in the preview it said anonymous.

  20. Juupke,
    Lucky! Laos is somewhere I'd like to visit some day. I see your name showing up twice just fine. Sometimes you just need to be signed into your other account first and it'll show up.


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