Nem Chua is one of significant Vietnamese appetizers that can’t be missed at special occasions such as engagement parties, wedding ceremonies and receptions. It also commonly served during Vietnamese New Year Tet, where relatives and friends gift each other rolls of nem chua wrapped nicely in banana leaves or plastic wrap. To make Nem Chua, you can use 99% lean beef or lean pork shoulder. Since it’s cured, I prefer beef over pork. You can choose either one, it’s up to you.
To make Nem Chua, make sure you make it right after getting back from grocery shopping, because you want the meat to be as fresh as possible. When you go grocery shopping, choose a good piece of beef or pork shoulder with minimum fat as possible, then ask your butcher to put the meat through the grinder on its finest setting for three times. Keep it in a bag of ice to make sure the meat is fresh and doesn’t release liquid. Make it right away as you get home.
Nem powder seasoning mix is available at the Vietnamese store. Usually one package is used to cure 1 lb of meat. If you plan to make it for any specially occasion, triple the amount or it’s great to gift some to your parents, siblings or friends. Vietnamese love this dish. It’s great to serve with a cold glass of beer.
Nem Chua Recipe:
1 lb beef, removed all fat, finely ground
1/3 lb pork skin (precooked and cut variety)
1 package of Nem powder seasoning mix
3 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked white pepper
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (will use later, use to wrap when cured)
4 bird’s eye chilies, finely sliced lengthwise (will use later, use to wrap when cured)
In a large bowl, combine the grounded beef, pork skin, sugar, salt, pepper and nem powder. Mix well and knead the ingredients together, occasionally lifting the mixture and throwing it down hard into the bowl. This slightly aerates the mixture and gives the desired texture. If you have an electric mixer, use it to thorough mix it.
With a plastic wrap, line a tray just large enough to hold the mixture, then ladle the meat mixture into the tray. Use a spatula to spread it evenly and press the meat down. Cover with plastic then place a same sized tray on top and press it down as hard as possible. You want to release any air bubbles from the meat and compress it hard.
Don’t worry if the meat will get blackened. Nem powder will cure the meat and it will turn to pink color when cured.
Leave it in refrigerator for 3 days to cure the meat before serving.
To serve, take it out from the refrigerator, allow it to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before slicing into 1 1/2 by 1 1/4 inch rectangles.
Use plastic wrap, arrange a sliced chili and a slice garlic across the top of each piece, then wrap it up. Keep doing it until done.
Crack a cold beer and enjoy!
Served as an appetizer.
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