Cha Lua- Vietnamese ham

I love cha lua, but most of the time, I can’t bring myself spending $10 for one roll (which is a bit bigger than a coffee cup), knowing that I would take “special” care of it in less than a day. What am I gonna solve this headache? Make cha lua myself of course.

What is cha lua, you may ask? It’s a popular Vietnamese dish, traditionally made with lean grounded pork and nuoc mam, wrapped tightly in banana leaves into a ‘roll” , then steamed. It is sliced and then serve with steamed rice, banh cuon, banh mi or xoi. We usually take cha lua for granted, but none of those dishes mentioned above would taste right without the plain and humble cha lua. It’s sometimes fried to enhance the flavor (now it’s called cha chien).

The Ravenous Couple recommend lean pork loin, grounded twice with the help of the butcher. Sadly, the butchers at my local asian market don’t “special” ground anything. I don’t know why. It’s not like it’s gonna hurt anyone, or their profit for that matter. I ended up buying 2 lbs of lean pork shoulder as it was wayyyy cheaper. The loin cut was twice the price. Haizzz. Everything seems to climb these days. Anyhow, I “hand-ground” the pork with my one and only Chinese cleaver (Oh Cleaver! How can i live without thee?), then ground it 3 times in my mini-food processor. It was a pain, I tell you.

~Cha Lua- Vietnamese ham~

adapted from Ravenous Couple’s recipe

  • 2 lbs fresh lean pork loin– ground twice
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 1/2 tbs fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tbs salt
  • a dash of pepper
  • *1 bag of Alsa baking powder or other Single acting baking powder
  • *2 tbs tapioca flour
  1. In mixing bowl, add the pork, fish sauce, and sugar and mix. In separate bowl add the water, tapioca flour, and baking powder and mix. It will foam and bubble up–that’s normal.  Fold this into the pork mixture. It will be quite moist. Cover and allow to rest at least 6 hrs, but preferably over night in the fridge
  2. When ready to cook, grind the mixture one more time in small batches in your food processor. The texture should be very smooth–this is the consistency of gio song (stop here if you’re just making gio song for bun moc). You can either wrap it up in banana leaf or in plastic wrap. The cha lua will rise and expand a bit when cooked. Steam for about 20-25 minutes (will vary depending on size).- I added some thinly sliced pork belly skin in my mixture and use plastic wrap to wrap it cuz it’s easier and faster.
  3. When the cha lua is cooked, submerged them in a cold water bath for about 1o’. Add some ice if you have it on hand. Then drain them, unwrap and your cha lua is done. *Note: The amount of Alsa baking powder and tapioca flour will determine the cha lua’s “bounciness” and chewiness. Also, Cha lua  keeps well in the freezer for months so make a big batch if you want.
I pan-fried mine in a non stick pan. I like cha chien more. Just looking at its golden skin makes me drool.

5 thoughts on “Cha Lua- Vietnamese ham

    • Thank you for your lovely comment and Yes, it’s already $10 here in Virginia ;> Gotta thanks this crappy economy for pushing me to make my own food .
      P.S: I love your photography btw.

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