Nem Chua Recipe Vietnamese Fermented/Cured Pork

nem chua

Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year)
is the most anticipated and celebrated holiday in Vietnamese culture. It takes place on the first day of the first month of the lunar calender (Febuary 14, 2010), however in Vietnam and throughout the world, the festival of Tet is not just a one day event, but celebrated weeks before, day of, and several days following Tet.

The several weeks before Tet is a time of preparation. Families clean and decorate the house, buy new cloths, repay debt, settle personal differences and of course cook. The most well known festive foods to serve at Tet are the banh chung and banh day (sticky rice cake), however there are many other festive foods which are also served to bring in the new year such as thit kho (braised pork belly) with dua gia (pickled bean sprouts), xoi gac, be thui (roasted veal), cha lua (Vietnamese ham) as well as nem chua are made. This is a time when family members return to the home.

While we have already posted a few Tet festive foods, we’re going to post a short series on a few other Tet celebratory foods. Nem chua is a cured/fermented pork charcuterie, if you will, that has a sweet, sour, salty and spicy taste that is oh so addicting. Now you see these year round either wrapped in banana leaves or plastic wrap in Asian groceries because it’s just that good and can’t just be saved for Tet.

This recipe is adapted from our dear Cousin Chi Quyen from Texas who is an awesome cook.

nem chua


nem chua

Use the leanest cut of pork possible, typically extra lean loin meat or tenderloin. Ask your butcher to trim off any excess tendon etc. and grind twice. In mixing bowl, combine the pork, sugar, pork skin, minced garlic, peppercorns, and the nem season mix. Mix well and we mean mix really well–it might help to use plastic gloves here. Squeeze and knead the mixture until it gets very very sticky. This is key!! If you think it’s about ready–knead it a few more just to be certain.

nem chua


nem chua

There are several ways to wrap up the nem chua. You can do it in a sausage like above and add the sliced garlic and chile in the center rolling it tightly with plastic wrap or banana leaves. Or you can spread it out in a flat baking pan or plastic container lined with plastic wrap. Layer the garlic slices and chile slices on top and cover tightly with additional plastic wrap. Put something flat and heavy on top to press it down–you want a nicely packed nem chua. Allow the nem chua to cure in the fridge for 24-36 hours. It will turn a beautiful pink color. When done, slice into small squares and wrap each individually with plastic wrap or banana leaf. Lasts about 1 week in the fridge.

nem chua

The nem chua has a very characteristic sour, sweet, salty, and spicy smell and taste that’s so damn good. Some even grill this during Tet but we enjoy it straight up. Thanks Chi Quyen for this awesome recipe! Tet this year is Febuary 14th…so what are you waiting for? Make your family preparations and make this for your family and friends–or heck, forget the chocolates–makes this for your sweet Valentines! 😉

Nem Chua Fermented Sour Pork

There are many ways to make this. The easiest is with a food processor, followed by kitchenaid, but neither are absolutedly necessary. If you don't have either, you can use your hands to massage the meat until sticky. The sourness should be present after 24 hrs and ready to eat. Lasts up to 14 days in the fridge.


1.3 lb of extra lean ground pork, preferably from the loin.
4 oz cooked pork skin, cut into short strips (bi-see what it looks like here)
8 cloves of garlic divided, 5--finely mince, thinly slice the remainder
1 tbs white peppercorns (wash and soak in water for about 10 mins)
Thai chile (either whole or cut small pieces)
3 tbs sugar
1/2 ts kosher salt
1 bag of seasoning Nem/Nam mix (Found in Asian Grocers and contains salts and nitrites for curing)
1-2 drops of red food coloring optional.


Line a square 8-9" cake pan with plastic wrap and set aside. Rinse and soak the whole white peppercorns in hot water for 30 min, then drain dry. The pork skin (bi) typically comes frozen so first defrost that or simply rinse in cool water and squeeze out excess water, drain and allow to dry.

Add the pork, minced garlic, sugar, and salt to the food processor. Churn until it becomes a sticky smooth paste, scrapping the down the sides intermittently. Add food coloring if you desire. Blend until smooth and uniform color.

Remove to mixing bowl and work in the pork skin until evenly distributed. Add the two packages of nem seasoning and mix well. Transfer to the lined cake tray. Using your hands spread the mixture until an even layer forms. Add the slivers of garlic and chili, arranging it in a roll. Add 1-2 peppercorns to each sliver of garlic and chili. Cover with plastic wrap and then find another container roughly the same size and place on top. Add something heavy to press down and refrigerate. Nem should be ready in 24 hrs. Remove the weights and cut into individual pieces making sure each piece has a sliver of garlic, chili, and peppercorn. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep refrigerated up to 1 week.

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66 Responses to “Nem Chua Recipe Vietnamese Fermented/Cured Pork”

  1. 1

    Fresh Local and Best — January 23, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

    Wow, I can't believe those are all of the steps to making cured pork. This is fantastic!

  2. 2

    sijeleng — January 23, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

    Nice looking nem chua. Just need some cold beers, grilled dried squid and you're set to kick off the weekend.

  3. 3

    Ju (The Little Teochew) — January 24, 2010 @ 8:46 am

    That look AMAZING!!! I couldn't believe that were pork! I had to do a double take because they looked so pretty … like a dessert! 🙂 Great job. I know I would LOVE this!

  4. 4

    pigpigscorner — January 24, 2010 @ 10:36 am

    Chinese new year too! stars on feb 14 this year and we celebrate it for 15 days. The cured pork looks really good!

  5. 5

    Yen (Food For Four) — January 24, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

    they look amazing! I love this with bánh mì.

    I'm looking forward to Tết. I'm dressing my kiddies in ao dài. May be that will get them more red packets 🙂

  6. 6

    HoustonWok — January 24, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

    WOW I've never seen how it was made w/raw pork.We would make this with ham,cooked ham,yah my family does it a little weird.

  7. 7

    OysterCulture — January 24, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

    I love learning about how different cultures celebrate New Years, and around my area of SF, the Chinese New Year celebration overshadows most others, thanks for sharing the recipes and information. Cannot wait to try.

  8. 8

    Ravenous Couple — January 24, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

    Christine: Yes, it's really that simple!!

    Sijeleng: you're absolutely got the Vietnamese drinking foods down right!

    Ju: Thanks! We had it for a poker night yesterday and it went fast!

    Anne: Wow, can't wait to see what you guys make over the pond for Lunar New Year.

    Yen: Ohh, haven't tried it with banh mi…wishing your kids get a lot of li xi!

    David: Never had it made with cooked ham…but think I've heard about it—the curing does cooks the pork though–the power of chemistry. 🙂

    OysterCulture: You'll definitely see these around the Asian Groceries now..give it a try!

  9. 9

    Cam de la Ron — January 24, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

    This is really wonderful. I don't actually eat pork, but the topic of cured meat is so interesting and I love the Vietnamese way of doing this particular meat. Is this same recipe done to other meats? Oh, I saw your photo on Foodgawker, and I was like "Yum-Spam"! I guess that's more of a Hawaiian thing. Anyway, very nice!

  10. 10

    Ravenous Couple — January 25, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

    Cam: I think some people make also cure beef this way, but we rarely have seen it. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. 11

    Connie — January 25, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

    I must say, this preparation sounds incredible, would love to try it.

  12. 12

    Gastronomer — January 25, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

    Eeee! I'm so excited about Tet! I'm a little bummed that it falls on V-day this year, but li xi will cheer me up 😉

  13. 13

    5 Star Foodie — January 26, 2010 @ 4:47 am

    Wow, this cured pork looks incredible, the flavors must be fantastic!

  14. 14

    Chef E — January 26, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

    Yummy site you two have over here! I have committed myself to make more Asian dishes I have never attempted this year…you will inspire me!

  15. 15

    Bonnibella — January 26, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

    I'm truly amazed when someone can make their own nem chua, does the recipe work with beef too? I cry with spicy tears every time I eat nem chua but it's part of the fun.

    I added you guys to my blog roll.

  16. 16

    Krissy @ The Food Addicts — January 27, 2010 @ 12:10 am

    Wow, you guys are amazing! I love nem chua… did you save any to send my way? Yum yum.

  17. 17

    The Fat Girl Inside — January 27, 2010 @ 12:15 am

    great posts & photos! you guys are so cute! =)

  18. 18

    Divina Pe — January 27, 2010 @ 9:52 am

    They look fantastic and a creative way to use ground pork.

  19. 19

    Ann — January 28, 2010 @ 5:28 am

    wow finally a godo recipe on nem chua! i dont know how to make nem chua but my mum does! she makes this every 3 months or so and gives me big batches! she doesnt really show me how to make it …well she has to one day right? lol

    i am going to try to make this when i have the time.

    thank you for the recipe 🙂

  20. 20

    Ravenous Couple — January 29, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    Bonnibella: This nem chua recipe should work for beef as well. Again would get the leanest cut possible.

    Divina: Nem chua needs very lean pork, so don't just use the regular ground pork.

    Ann: Let us know how this nem chua recipe works for you!

  21. 21 — January 29, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

    You guys are hardcore for making this dish from scratch! I always just bought them ready made from the market. I love these!

  22. 22

    Ravenous Couple — January 29, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

    Dhale: Nem chua is so much cheaper making it at home…but nem chua is great isn't it?

  23. 23

    Pete LaVerghetta — May 9, 2010 @ 3:56 am

    Great stuff, thanks!

  24. 24

    griddle — October 30, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

    It's the first time that I see an actual Vietnamese fermented pork recipe, and I can't wait to try it after staring at the great pictures above.

  25. 25

    Young — October 31, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    I tried the recipe, mine comes out really good, but the color is not quite the same as in the last picture you showed. It is more of the color of the middle pictures. Did I do something wrong. Besides the color, it tastes very good.

  26. 26

    Anonymous — December 4, 2010 @ 4:24 am

    Hi there, I am so happy I found your blog. We love love love nem chua but do not know how to make it. So glad you've posted this recipe. Thanks so much!

  27. 27

    Anonymous — January 26, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

    my mom's came out salty and is pretty red but it tastes a little off
    but still ok. how can you be sure it's fermented and ready to eat as opposed to still raw and dangerous for consumption?

  28. 28

    Chef Jay — February 21, 2011 @ 9:56 am

    I love the combination of tastes as well as the subtle color combination. If looking for barbecue rib recipes , feel free to visit my site. Thank you.

  29. 29

    Anonymous — May 28, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

    Your nem chua photos made me hungry. However I made it twice and each time it came out very sour and on the salty side. I also couldn’t find the frozen bi, therefore opted for the dried kind, which had to be wet and dried. Maybe I should also add more sugar next time? Thanx for sharing the recipe!

  30. 30

    housewife — July 13, 2011 @ 11:43 am

    thank you for the recipe – like young’s comment, mine color hasn’t changed its colors after 48 hours, do you know if it’s ready to eat? And did I do something wrong too? – please help

  31. 31

    The Ravenous Couple — July 13, 2011 @ 11:47 am

    the nam package has the powder and a SMALL package inside. You need to mix that in as well. If not, then that might be the reason why. Sorry about that..not sure if it has properly cured. There should be a good smell to it, if not, don’t eat it.

  32. 32

    housewife — July 13, 2011 @ 11:59 am

    maybe i should try it again and make it nem nuong lol (cuz i didn’t put the second package until later) – thanks again 🙂

  33. 33

    The Ravenous Couple — July 13, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    yes! a great idea so don’t throw it out,…grilled nem chua is also used grilled as part of nem nuong!

  34. 34

    Andy — July 25, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

    I just made this but I substituted refined white sugar with dark brown sugar. I did this to hopefully achieve a darker reddish colour instead of the light pink. Hopefully the molasses in the brown sugar won’t affect the curing process and will help with taste. I used palm sugar before and that turned out REALLY WELL.

  35. 35

    journy — August 17, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

    how long does it last?

  36. 36

    The Ravenous Couple — August 18, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    after curing, it should be refrigerated, probably good for about 1 week

  37. 37

    Michelle — December 16, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    Yesterday I bought the seasoning nem and the package does not look like yours. The brand is Monika, meat curing powder, product of philipine, 12.3 oz. Is this the same thing like yours?

    If I use this product to make nem nuong then how may ounces should I use with 1 and 1/2 lb of pork?

    Thank you.

  38. 38

    The Ravenous Couple — December 20, 2011 @ 8:38 am

    the nem curing powder is used to make Nem chua, fermented pork…any of those brands will work for nem chua. but it’s not for making nem nuong.

  39. 39

    Peter — January 7, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    Any thoughts about using a food processor for the kneeing step?

  40. 40

    The Ravenous Couple — January 9, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

    it might change the texture too much (too smooth)

  41. 41

    Mark — January 24, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

    Traditional Nem Chua is not good! The curing agent doesn’t actually “cook” the pork. It doesn’t kill bacteria like tradintional heat cooking would do. This is especially bad considering you’re using raw pork.

    A few years back the media in Vietnam did some stories about nem chua and some lab study showed that most average nam chua sold in resturants and on the street contains salmonella (nasty!) and other bacteria. Extra sour and potent nem chua (when vendors use more of the curing agent) hardly contains any trace of bacteria because of the high acid level.

    Solution: Use extra amount of the curing powder. If you can’t handle this extra potent nem chua porkt, then use raw beef which is more safe than raw pork. This is why you hear some people in Vietnam using beef now eventhough only pork was traditionally used.

  42. 42

    30 Before 30 – A Bucket List | Petit Plat — March 24, 2012 @ 8:21 am

    […] Nem Chua […]

  43. 43

    ba bep — May 20, 2012 @ 9:17 am

    I love it .

  44. 44

    ba bep — May 20, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    Hi MARK ,
    We can not compare the NEM made in VN with the Homemade NEM in USA.
    Some how , it;s OK if you use beef meat to make NEM , the color of beef NEM has a little bit darker than with pork meat .

  45. 45

    Cindi — August 29, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

    I tried this last night, and couldn’t believe how easy it was. The trick was to get all the ingredients ready, including slicing the garlic ahead. I realized it kind of stiffen
    on me when and I placed the garlic on top. It wasn’t sticking as well, so I placed the chili and peppercorn next to the garlic and wrapped it tightly with seran and pressed it firmly down. It pretty much did the the job. I checked it this morning and it already turned pink, can’t wait to try it tonight. Thanks!

  46. 46

    The Ravenous Couple — August 30, 2012 @ 10:53 am


  47. 47

    linda — September 22, 2012 @ 7:50 am

    omg. have been looking for this recipe :O my moms friends alwas make them, and i loveeeee it. 😀

  48. 48

    sonxauxi — April 29, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

    You guy want it look just right this is what I do put like 5 drop of food coloring red of course of how ever u want it to be and mix that well hope that help

  49. 49

    “We got different social norms than yoooo-oouuuu…” | Wandering Third Instar — July 19, 2013 @ 11:30 am

    […] nuong (nem nướng) @ 2:45. Nem nướng is grilled pork, that looks more like nem chua which is fermented, cured pork…and […]

  50. 50

    Vietnamese Lunar New Year Foods - Im Not the Nanny — January 27, 2014 @ 7:46 am

    […] she never measures and didn’t write anything down. Does that sound like your mom? I found a nem chua recipe that I will try, but with ground beef. Have to honor my mother’s […]

  51. 51

    Lynn — January 28, 2014 @ 1:37 am

    Is there a reason why we need to use lean meat?

  52. 52

    The Ravenous Couple — February 14, 2014 @ 11:35 am

    fatty meat may leave bad odors when fermenting

  53. 53

    On Tet, Family, and Traditions | ngan made it — January 31, 2014 @ 11:40 am

    […] cakes with mung bean and pork) would be cut into, rice with fish and beef would be served, and nem chua (really stinky pork snack) would be […]

  54. 54

    Nhi — April 15, 2014 @ 11:28 am

    I love this dish so much but I dont eat pork anymore, can we substitute different meat other than pork?

  55. 55

    The Ravenous Couple — April 15, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

    some people use beef.

  56. 56

    Nhi — April 15, 2014 @ 11:29 am

    and also anything to subsitute Bi-pork skin as well?

  57. 57

    The Ravenous Couple — April 15, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

    there maybe tofu or vegetarian products as substitutes

  58. 58

    ann — June 20, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

    I love your site! Will attempt to make nem soon. What size pan do you use? Thank you!

  59. 59

    “We got different social norms than yoooo-oouuuu…” | Wandering Third Instar — October 1, 2014 @ 8:05 pm

    […] nuong (nem nướng) @ 2:45. Nem nướng is grilled pork, that looks more like nem chua which is fermented, cured pork…and […]

  60. 60

    Sophie — January 8, 2016 @ 12:25 pm

    I have always enjoyed reading your blog. It is very nicely layout and narrative with each recipe, very thoughtful. Thank you for sharing your recipe collections…Just wonder if you have a steamed Nem Chua recipe that you would share.

  61. 61

    Kayla — July 17, 2016 @ 8:28 pm

    Hi, I noticed inside the nem powder mix there’s also a small bag inside, do I throw that small bag away and what happen if not use. Will the nem be good or not?

  62. 62

    The Ravenous Couple — July 20, 2016 @ 3:35 pm

    hmm not sure what that bag is but would use it unless it’s one of those dessicate bags that say “do not eat”

  63. 63

    Jaime — September 27, 2016 @ 2:48 am

    One question.. the package nem powder states to use 1 lbs 2 oz pork and your recipe states to use 1lbs 8 oz is that enough nem seasoning to cure the pork?

  64. 64

    The Ravenous Couple — September 29, 2016 @ 7:25 pm

    it could have been a different brand, go ahead and use the recommended portion on the package.

  65. 65

    KATIE H — March 21, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

    Do you know how long i can leave it in the freezer to enjoy at a later?

  66. 66

    Mali — April 10, 2017 @ 2:06 pm

    I’m told that sometimes people add toasted ground rice as well. Is that true?

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