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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Nem Nuong and Nem Nuong Cuon (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty Salad Rolls)

I'm not giving you my secret recipe, so just look at the pictures. Hahaha! Happy April Fool's Day! :P

Nem Nuong 1

Hi everyone, I wasn't trying to hold out on you. I'm not that mean. Just been busy moving.

Dude! Ya'll should so appreciate me because I believe in sharing my recipes in an effort to get everyone to love Vietnamese food.

Anyway, a while back one of my readers had emailed me requesting a recipe to go with banh trang (Vietnamese rice paper). I pretty much wrap everything in banh trang. Sometimes, I just roll the banh trang plain and dip it in Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste). Mmm.

But there are certain grilled meats that signal spring to me. And since I've got a nice little batch of herbs from my garden, I decided to make nem nuong (Vietnamese grilled pork patty). Nem is the ground pork. Nuong is grilled.

Here's a little lesson on the peculiarities of Northern Vietnamese (Ha! Is my Southern bias coming through?), who use nem ran (ground pork fried) to describe their egg rolls. Northerners would put the patties into a bowl of diluted fish sauce and serve it with noodles and herbs and call it Bun Cha. Southerners wrap the meat with some herbs in rice paper and call it nem nuong. Incidentally, my brother recently tried bun cha for the first time and was horrified by its presentation. He much prefers eating it South-Central style. Ha! :P

As I've mentioned before, we South-Central Coast Vietnamese like to put a little bit of crunch in our nem nuong rolls. Some versions of nem nuong include color and cornstarch and baking powder for a pink and bouncy meat. I've never been a fan of that texture. This recipe is closer to how my mom made it, like mini-hamburger patties.

Nem Nuong 2

Nem Nuong and Nem Nuong Cuon (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty Salad Rolls)  

For about 2 dozen nem nuong patties:
For 2 to 4 people, you'll need:
2 lbs 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 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.)
About half a dozen cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tblsps sugar
2 tblsps Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Optional: Substitute honey for the sugar if you want a better aroma and flavor, but sugar works just fine. Also, you can add 1 tblsp cornstarch if you want the meat to have a firmer consistency.

This amount makes about 24 patties of 2 inches round, 1/2 inch thick. Plan on 2 patties per roll, 3 rolls per person. Or more, obviously, if you've got a bigger appetite than mine.

Now, most recipes don't include the almost liquified onion. Most Vietnamese rely on the fat in the pork to give the nem nuong its juiciness. My mom prefers to grind her own pork so that she can cut down a lot of the fat. The onion injects the juiciness back in. I think it also adds a lot of flavor. You don't want to actually encounter any little onion pieces so puree it as fine as possible. If you actually want really firm patties though, you'll want to grind your own pork and omit the onions.

Nem Nuong 3

Mix all ingredients together. Then take a tiny piece and pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds or so until it is fully cooked. Taste and adjust if necessary. The meat should be savory, but slightly sweet as well. The onions will have released liquid, just press down on the meat and tilt the bowl to let the excess liquid drain out.

I prefer to shape mine into patties roughly 2 inches in diameter and about 1/2 inch thick. This is the ideal size for cooking quickly on the grill or in my little George Foreman grill. Guests then only have to break them in half in order to roll them up in rice paper. And in a pinch, you can also pan-fry them. When I'm making a lot at once, instead of piling them all on multiple plates, I just layer plastic wrap in between for easier removal.

If the meat becomes a little too sticky to work with, you can either oil your hands before touching the meat or wash frequently between batches. Sometimes it helps to put the plate of formed pork patties in the freezer to retain their shape before pan-frying or grilling.

Nem Nuong 4

You can also shape them into balls and put them on skewers if you plan to serve these as appetizers. Or form a long patty like a kefta kebab around the skewer and slice afterward.

Nem Nuong 5

Grill the pork patties and serve on a plate so everyone can make their own rice paper rolls.

Nem Nuong 6

For the egg roll wrapper: Cut in half and fold as normal. Just make like you're folding egg rolls, but without any stuffing.

Nem Nuong 7

A plate of herbs: I've got green leaf lettuce, spearmint, apple mint, and sorrel. It's up to your personal preference. If you don't have access to any herbs, a baby greens salad mix would serve as a decent substitute. Or just lettuce alone, but you kinda want a variety of herby tastes and plain lettuce is just bland, ya know? You can also add slices of cucumbers or green apples for crunch.

Nem Nuong 8

Dipping sauce: Follow my instructions for Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce). I make my fish sauce in a big enough batch to fill a jar and leave it in my fridge so I don't have precise measurements.

On low heat on your stovetop, melt a few tablespoons of sugar into a mix of 1/3 vinegar, 1/3 fish sauce, and 1/3 water. When the sugar dissolves, taste and add more if needed. Yes, this will stink up your kitchen so open your windows wide, or invest in an air purifier.

Add a little bit of corn starch if you want a thicker consistency. Add the minced chili and garlic after the fish sauce is to your liking. It should be on the sweet side. Save in a glass jar in the fridge and it should last forever.

Like my little dipping bowl? It cost me about a dime in Hanoi. :)

Nem Nuong 9

Serve this with crushed peanuts. I'm not a peanut fan so I don't put it in mine. Squeeze in a fresh lime or lemon for freshness when serving. Or you can also beat in an egg ala egg drop soup style and some hoisin sauce or smooth peanut butter if you want a Brodard-like sauce. The egg though doesn't keep as well so only do this in small batches if you intend to use up all the dipping sauce.  

Rice paper:

Nem Nuong 10

A bowl of water: For dipping the rice paper.

Nem Nuong 11

To serve, you'll want a plate of the nem nuong, egg roll wrapper, herbs, banh trang, a bowl of water for that banh trang, an empty plate to wrap the rolls, and a dipping sauce bowl. Follow my primer on how to wrap rice paper if you don't know how.

Nem Nuong 2

You should just wet, but not soak, the rice paper in the bowl of water. The rice paper will become pliable as you're making the roll. Break the patties in half and line them into a row.

Nem Nuong 12

Then add a fried egg roll shell.

Nem Nuong 13

Add some herbs.

Nem Nuong 14

Then as you're rolling make sure you have a tight roll so nothing falls out when you're dipping and eating.

Nem Nuong 15


Nem Nuong 16

This recipe has consistently done well for me. I don't make them very often because my aunt caters and I usually get a batch of hers for free. :) We sold out every year I made these for the Vietnamese Student Association at my college's International Festival.

The last memorable time I made nem nuong was almost three years ago when I was in Stockholm. I had to substitute with ground beef because I couldn't find ground pork and there was no food processor to make my own. I minced the onions by hand. I had to pan-fry. And still, my friend, who was coming back from a one-day business trip to Copenhagen, saved his belly for my meal and even bought me a 2-lb box of After Eight mint chocolates in anticipation. Was my friend really starved for Vietnamese food or was my nem nuong that good? ;)



  1. Happy April's Food Day!
    So you will still be giving us the recipe, don't you? It was just a joke right? Yummy patties!

  2. Are you teasing us ,WC??? Though you can't give out your secert recipe....'cause it won't be a secret anymore, right?

  3. I thought you were making Bun Cha Hanoi - my addiction, so simple so bad and so good. But I'll take Nem anyday ;-)

  4. Har har...

    Anyways, that looks REALLY good!! Those pictures actually made my salivary glands kick into gear!

  5. That's an April Fools joke that's not funny :)

    Posting pictures so delicious I want to eat them, with no recipe. Really, pretty please with sugar on top, just the recipe for the first picture???

  6. looks alright to me

  7. Sweet sassy mollasey! That looks awesome. Forget the recipe, can you just bring some to the next blogger outing? HAHA!

    So, do you know what's in Brodard's pink sauce?

  8. Interesting...

    I have found that rolling pretty much anything in rice paper and dipping in nuoc mam (aka "cham") is tops. The post-Thanksgiving turkey proved that to me.

  9. Looks more than "alright," it looks FANTASTIC to me! If you aren't going to give out the recipe, can I come over and try some?! Those look so good...

  10. Ooo, just came across your blog! What's the fried stuff in the 4th photo down? That looks like a nice calorie-ladden snack!

  11. Hi Everyone,

    Sorry for the delay! I hope this was worth the wait. :)

  12. Thanks for the recipe WC. Adding the egg roll wrapper is a good idea ... will definately try it!!!

  13. Yea! Even though the requesting lurker did not eventually thank you for sharing your recipe, I will thank you! I am going to go try this now...

  14. Tricia,
    Let me know how it goes.

    So did you try it?

  15. Hi WC,

    Finally got around to try out the recipe. IT IS TO DIE FOR!!! My goodness! It's simply, absolutely delicious!

    I used a grater to grate the onions over the meat. I think it made the meat more moist and juicy.

    This is definately a keeper!!

    Thanks a bunch for sharing!!!

  16. Hi Tricia,
    I'm so glad you tried and liked my recipe. :)

  17. hi,
    when grill on skewers do you eat it as is or do you need to make the dipping sauce too ? superbowl next sunday might give this a try. oh by the way will this work on pork chop or chicken cutlet ?thanks

  18. Diane,
    I think my recipe is flavorful enough that you don't have to have the dipping sauce if you're serving it for your Superbowl party. For pork chops, I'd suggest my recipe for basic marinade for Vietnamese porkchops and chicken on the bone. For chicken cutlet, you can try my lemongrass chicken recipe. You can search for both recipes or look under the recipe list.

  19. thanks for the recipe!!! I can't wait to make it.

  20. Hey WC,
    I was going through some of your recipes. There's a restaurant around the corner that makes excellent nem nuong. I'll try to get Cathy to go! Unfortunately, they simply serve it with bun and don't roll it! We like crunch with this too and roll with the ram tom (what you call nem ram?). We also eat it with bottled Thai chili sauce - my mom says it's similar to a chili sauce they serve in Quang Ngai.

  21. Miss.Adventure,
    You mean cha ram? Nem ran is Northern speak for cha gio. :) I made bap ram the other day. Will have to post about it soon. It was yummy!

  22. I mean the ones with just shrimp in it. Can't wait to see the post!

  23. Miss.Adventure,
    Thanks for reminding me. Will have to post the recipe soon.

  24. Hi,

    I LOVE nem nuong and normally eat it with rice paper too although there are times when (being lazy) we just throw it into a bowl of vermicelli with lettuce and nuoc cham. Speaking of bun cha, I've never eaten it before but have heard and seen pictures of it, but now upon discovering this post of yours, it made me wonder: is bun cha really just nem nuong and vermicelli with nuoc cham? How is it any different and do you know how they make the 'diluted' nuoc cham? It's been a mystery to me for so long now! Their patties also look a little different? Or maybe they're just larger in size...
    Anyhow, wonderful blog you have here -I've really been enjoying reading it! :)


  25. Jenny,
    My version of nem nuong is the same grilled ground pork as you see in bun cha. The other version of nem nuong, the pink kind that's firmer, uses food coloring and starch to achieve that consistency. I prefer not to add color or starch to my meat. Patties may be shaped however you wish.

    The nuoc cham recipe is also listed above in this post.

  26. Looks yummy, thanks sooo much for sharing!

  27. Taylor,
    You're welcome! Hope you try the recipe.


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