Nem chua (Vietnamese raw fermented pork)


Nem chua is the ultimate snack to eat when you’re drinking. It’s very addictive with the heat from the chilies, pungency from the garlic, and sourness from the curing/fermenting process. The traditional recipe calls for pork but I’ve seen some recipes using beef because of the raw pork scare (trichinosis). The nem powder contains nitrate/nitrite which is typically used in curing salt so personally, no worries here.

I like to add a Thai basil leaf to the finished product along with more chilies. Keep a supply of this in the freezer for when your drinking buddy pops by and you’ll have a great time all around.

The hardest part about this recipe is the wait! At least 24 hours or 48 hours is ideal. Having made the nem, it’s hard for me to wait for it to ferment and I just want to consume it right away. Of course, this is a NO NO and the idea of getting sick makes me more patient. Having said that, I rarely wait more than 24 hours before inhaling it. The longer you let the meat cure, the more sour it will be.

I was very happy to discover another use for my 6kg kettlebell. Since it’s winter in Stockholm and the weather outside is minus, I could put my meat outside on the veranda with a kettlebell on top to press the meat. The result is a perfectly compact, dense piece of nem.

Shredded pork skin can be found in the frozen section or dehydrated in the dried good section of your local Asian supermarket. Having said that, I’ve only been able to find this at Oriental supermarket.


  • 600g pork cutlet with all fat and tendons removed
  • 100g shredded pork skin, washed and dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 7 or more birds eye chilies
  • 2 cloves or more garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 packet nem powder
  • 1 teaspoon red food colouring (optional)


Step 1

Cube the pork and place in a food processor. Process until finely ground. Place the meat in the freezer for 1 hour.

Step 2

In the meantime, wash the pork skin thoroughly under warm, running water until it no longer feels fatty. Cut the pork skin into 2cm long strands. Set aside in a separate mixing bowl.

Step 3

Remove the pork from the freezer. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well until the meat is sticky. Knead for another 5 minutes.

Step 4

Line a form with aluminium and then with plastic wrap.

Step 5

Transfer the meat to the lined form. Cover with plastic wrap and another layer of aluminium.

Step 6

Place a weight on top of the meat (a kettlebell works great here or a cast iron pan) and into the fridge for 24 hours.

Step 7

Cut up the now fermented meat into cubes.

Step 8

Wrap each cube in plastic wrap along with a Thai basil leaf and more chilies. You can also add raw garlic here but I'm not a big fan of garlic so I'm going without.

Step 9

Place the cubes of fermented pork in a freezer bag and place in the freezer or the fridge.

Step 10

The nem will keep in the fridge for a week or 6 months in the freezer but it never lasts this long at home! 😉

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