Steamed Pork Roll (Cha Lua/Gio Lua)

Steamed Pork Roll also called Vietnamese Ham | recipe from runawayrice.comSteamed Pork Roll is a mildly-seasoned, finely-ground pork wrapped in aromatic banana leaves and then steamed to perfection.  Also known as Vietnamese Ham, it’s a popular ingredient in sandwiches and many Asian dishes.  This easy, no-fail recipe shares all the tips and tricks for making this successfully at home.  No more buying at the store where the quality of the meat is suspect and the product is loaded with fillers, preservatives and MSG.  There’s nothing but healthy goodness in this recipe.  Learn this basic recipe and in future posts I’ll share more scrumptious recipes using the pork roll mixture.  Enjoy!

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

Definitely use pork with fat.  I use 80/20 (80% lean/20% fat) ground pork and this combination yields a juicy pork roll.  Of course, you can use more fat if you’d like. 🙂

I usually grind the pork (using my KitchenAid stand mixer with the food grinder attachment) at home.  If you opt to do this, select pork butt or pork shoulder, cuts which are nicely marbled.

Check out my earlier post for Preparing Banana Leaves.  Prep the leaves a day or so in advance and have them ready.

If you have difficulty finding banana leaves or just want to skip it altogether, you can use parchment paper.

Either single-acting or double-acting baking powder will work just fine.  I add the baking powder last so it doesn’t foam up and make it difficult to combine all of the ingredients well.  Even though it is not foaming, it still needs to be fresh!

I prefer potato starch in this recipe.  It helps to give the texture just the right amount of “springiness” (“dai” is what we call it in Vietnamese).  If you don’t have potato starch, you can substitute with tapioca starch or corn starch but the difference will be noticeable.

Chill times may vary depending on your freezer.  The pork should be firm and solid (Note how I was able to cut it into rectangular sections) but not completely frozen.  Chilling the pork is also key to achieving the springy texture so it’s important to time this right.

The technique of processing the pork is really important.  First, you want to be careful not to overwork your food processor and burn out the motor.  Therefore, pulse instead of processing continuously.  This also avoids heating up the food processor which can warm the meat.  During processing, the meat needs to remain cold.  If it gets warm, put it back in the freezer for 10 minutes and then resume the processing.  Letting the meat get warm will result in mushy pork rolls.

If you’d like your pork rolls to be more uniform, use an empty soup can.  Remove both ends of the can first.  Put the roll inside the empty can and use it to shape your log.  Nice trick, right? 🙂

The twine is not really necessary when using the plastic wrap because it does a great job of keeping everything bound.  The shortcut here is that it’s easier to tie the twine around the plastic wrap then the banana leaves.  However, if you’re crafty, you can tie the twine around the banana leaves and then wrap the entire thing in plastic wrap.  This makes the pork rolls look really pretty if you’re thinking about giving these as gifts for Lunar New Year.

The pork rolls are delicately steamed with minimal water over Low heat for the entire time.  Too much steam will cause the pork rolls to super expand and then shrink when cooled, resulting in a wrinkly pork roll.

Refrigerate any leftovers and enjoy within the week.

These rolls are great to make and freeze for later enjoying.  If freezing, do not remove the banana leaves.  Wrap the Steamed Pork Rolls with foil and then store in a freezer bag.  They are good for up to 6 months.

For quick and easy meals, make a sandwich or add to salads, soups and noodle soups.

Watch the video below for instructions.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like: Beef Meatballs (Bo Vien) and Fish Cakes (Cha Ca).

Ingredients

2 lbs 80/20 ground pork
4 Tbsp ice water
3 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp potato starch
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
3/4 tsp baking powder
6 banana leaves cleaned, approximately 14″x14″

Directions

In a small bowl combine the ice water, fish sauce, vegetable oil, sugar, potato starch and ground white pepper and combine well.  Now add the baking powder and combine.

Put the ground pork into the mixing bowl.  Pour in the marinade.  Using a flat beater, mix on Low speed for 3-4 minutes or until all of the ingredients are well combined.

Transfer the pork into a large metal pan.  Spread out the meat into a thin and even layer.

Place the pan into the freezer and chill for 3 hours or until the pork is solid but not completely frozen.

Divide the pork into 8 equal pieces.  Transfer half, 4 pieces, into a bowl and return the metal pan to the freezer.

Transfer 2 pieces of the pork into the food processor.  Pulse for 10 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. (This is one cycle.)  Repeat for 5 cycles.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and push the meat into the blade.  Continue the pulse-rest-scrape until the pork is finely ground.  (This takes approximately 5 minutes.)  Transfer the pork into another bowl.

Repeat the same process with the other 2 pieces of pork.  Once done, add the first batch back into the food processor and pulse for 30 seconds, combining both batches well.

Transfer the processed pork onto a large piece of plastic wrap and then use the plastic wrap to shape into a log.  Bounce the log against the hard work surface a few times to remove some of the air bubbles.

Smooth out the roll and shape into a log.  Place in the refrigerator.

Remove the remaining portion from the freezer and repeat the same steps as above to make the second pork roll.

Put into the refrigerator and chill both logs for another 20 minutes.

Place the first banana leaf down with the veins running vertically.  Place the second banana leaf on top of the first one with the veins running horizontally.  For the third leaf, place the darker green, shiny side face-up with the veins running vertically.  Brush a thin layer of vegetable oil on the top leaf.

Remove the plastic wrap from one roll and place horizontally on the banana leaves.  Bring the banana leaves together at the top and then fold the leaves down until they are snug against the roll.

Fold down the one end and stand up the roll.  Cut off the excess banana leaves using scissors.  Fold down the leaves covering the end.

Flip the roll onto the other end and repeat the same process.

Wrap the entire roll in plastic wrap.  Gently roll on the work surface, shaping into a uniform log.

Loosely tie the log with twine.

Fill 1/4 of a steamer basin with water and bring to a boil over High heat.  Reduce the heat to Low.

Add the steamer tray with the two pork rolls and steam for 20 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.

To serve, remove the banana leaves and cut into slices or wedges.

Yields: 2 rolls, approximately 1 lb each

Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen

Steamed Pork Roll also called Vietnamese Ham--The best recipe EVER! | recipe from runawayrice.comWant recipe using Steamed Pork Roll?  Here are some of my favorites: Savory Rolled Cakes (Banh Cuon) and Vermicelli Soup with Chicken, Steamed Pork Roll and Egg (Bun Thang)

*This post contains affiliate links.*

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37 Responses to Steamed Pork Roll (Cha Lua/Gio Lua)

  1. Kitty July 16, 2017 at 6:12 am #

    Hi Trang

    I just want to know if I can still make this if I don’t have a food processor?

    • Trang July 24, 2017 at 10:31 am #

      Hi Kitty,
      Yes, you can grind the meat by hand using a wooden pestle or heavy spoon. (This is what grandmother use to do back in the day.) Try to buy pork that is double-ground so it’s less work for you. Work in small batches so the meat stays cold at all times. It’s a lot of manual effort but works just fine. Good Luck!

  2. Anon December 3, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

    Thank you for the recipe and wonderfully video tutorials. I made the cha lua today and the texture was right on. I didn’t have banana leaves on hand, so used saran wrap and tied the rolls with string. I had to steam for 50 minutes. I used Alsa baking powder, but will try with double acting powder next tome.

    • Trang December 4, 2016 at 11:46 am #

      Hi Anon,
      I am glad to hear you enjoyed this recipe. Saran wrap instead of banana leaves works great as does the Alsa baking powder. Thanks for stopping by to share your results. 🙂

  3. Kate August 31, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Hi Trang,

    I have never made cha lua before so this is my first attempt. I don’t have a flat beater, can I use the regular beater with the electric hand mixer? Also, any difference/preference between single or double acting baking powder?

    • Trang September 12, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

      Hi Kate,
      A hand-mixer with a regular beater will work or you can mix by hand. You can use either single or double-acting baking powder in this recipe. Good Luck!

  4. Heidi August 7, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    Hi
    I like to make beef roll. Any advise. I finally did a perfect pork roll last week. Thank you for sharing

    • Trang August 8, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

      Hi Heidi,
      Awesome! I am glad to hear you were successful. Thanks for taking the time to share your results. 🙂

      • Heidi August 17, 2016 at 9:20 am #

        Hi
        You forgot about the beef roll recipe. Have you tried it ?

        • Trang August 23, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

          Hi Heidi,
          The Steamed Beef Roll (Gio Bo) recipe is very similar and I’ll share the recipe in the near future. Stay tuned!

  5. Lee June 28, 2016 at 2:58 pm #

    Hi chị Trang,

    Em có thể dùng food processor xay thịt giống như làm bò viên được không? Vì em không có stand mixer. Cảm ơn chị chia sẽ công thức, em làm bò viên ăn ngon hơn tiệm đó chị.:))

    • Lee June 29, 2016 at 7:24 am #

      Cảm ơn chị đã chia sẽ ct bò viên nha. Chúc chị và gia đình luôn vui và khoẻ

      • Trang July 24, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

        Hi Lee,
        I am glad to hear you like you enjoyed the Beef Meatballs (Bo Vien). Appreciate you stopping by 🙂

    • Trang July 24, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

      Hi Lee,
      Yes, if you don’t have a stand mixer you can use the dough blade to mix the meat or mix by hand. Everything else is the same. Good Luck em!

  6. Amy February 18, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

    Hi Trang,

    I would like to know if there is any substitution I can use for banana leaves to wrap the cha? Thank you!

    • Trang February 19, 2016 at 7:02 am #

      Hi Amy,
      You can use parchment paper. It works really well. Enjoy the recipe!

      • Amy February 21, 2016 at 10:35 am #

        Thank you so much for your answer. Will definitely give it a try and let you know. Love your cooking recipe. Easy to follow and I always success with first try. You’re awesome!

      • Amy February 21, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

        Hi Trang, I went to get the ingredients but the grocery I went didn’t have any potatoe starch. Can I use corn starch or tapioca starch for substitution? If so will it be the same amount? Thanks in advance.

        • Trang February 23, 2016 at 9:51 pm #

          Hi Amy,
          Tapioca starch will work just fine. Use the same amount. Enjoy!

  7. Heidi February 1, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

    Hi
    You said that coldness make the ham crunchy and stringy, my friend also said that we need to beat or slap the mixture against the bowl wall very hard to achiever the result. First time I got mushy ham (bo), then I tried again with beating the mixture very hard then the result got a little bit better but it still not good enough. I don’t remember if I kept it cold enough. Can you explain why coldness get the result, or beating the mixture hard is just weird. Or because air buble cause the mushy ham. Please advise. Your picture looked yiummy.

    • Trang February 1, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

      Hi Heidi,
      Chilling the pork makes it elastic and therefore yields a springy texture. When the meat gets warm, it loses its elasticity and firmness, and as a result, you get a mushy texture. I’ve tried the technique of bouncing the meat against a hard surface but it’s a lot of work and I find it easier to use the chill method. Let me know which method you try. Good Luck!

  8. Amy January 28, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

    Hi Trang,
    Which one do you think will do a better job grinding the pork into paste: food processor or the kitchenaid food grinder attachment? Which will provide a finer paste. It seem that food processor method requires lot of patience to grind small batches ( rest, and grind) . The food grinder seems to be quicker but it is more of a hassle to clean afterward. Have you consider of investing in an electric meat grinder ? But then that would be another kitchen gadget in the kitchen. I saw one at costco online for a decent price and thinking of getting it to make gio, beef meatball, or nem

    • Trang February 1, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

      Hi Amy,
      I think the food processor does a better job at grinding the pork into a fine paste. I’ve used the food grinder attachment in the past and wasn’t satisfied with the coarse texture. If you plan on making this often, I would recommend purchasing a commercial food processor with a super-powerful motor. My mom has one and she can process several pounds of pork in minutes. With the smaller food processor, it does take time because you have to let the motor rest. I hear you–I have so many appliances as is and that’s what is stopping me from buying another one. If you decide to buy one, I’d like to know which brand you selected. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  9. Amy January 27, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

    Hi Trang,
    BTW, do you think I can use this paste to make the cha chien instead ( maybe steam and then fry) . How long do you think I should steam it?

    • Trang February 1, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

      Hi Amy,
      This same recipe can be used to make cha chien (fried pork roll). I usually steam the rolls for 15 minutes and then fry. Enjoy!

  10. Amy January 27, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    Hi Trang.
    You make the wrapping technique look so easy. Do you have any other tricks for wrapping. I attempt to make the gio lua today. Everything went well but when it come to wrapping , it seem the leaves keep tearing with I fold horizontal or not long enough ( even the size is roughly 14 inches )and the end leave is too thick to fold. So I waste the whole bag of banana leave ( attempting to make 4 ) and not even able to wrap one. Maybe I need more practice. Hope you will post more videos before Tet. Thanks

    • Trang February 1, 2016 at 9:40 pm #

      Hi Amy,
      Sorry to hear you had some difficulty wrapping the gio lua. Have you had success with the brand of banana leaves you’re using in the past? I’ve found that some brand of leaves can be really stiff and requiring a soaking in hot water before they are pliable. I am wondering if this is the case with the leaves you used. Keep trying. It does take a bit of practice. My best wishes to you and your family for a joyous Tet! 🙂

      • Amy February 13, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

        Hi Trang .
        I bought the Weston #8 meat grinder from Costco ( 89$ plus tax- ) .So far I only just make the cha ca with it . It does a very good job with grinding the fish and fast too compare to both food processor and food grinder attachment. I grind the first time with the coarse grinding plate , chill then regrind with a finer grinding plate and it yield a very smooth paste. ( a bit time consuming with the chilling period) Very happy with the result . I think it would be a good investment if you want to make a big batch of pastes . The machine is rather small, so can be store easily. The only thing is it is a bit tedious when it come to cleaning the parts. It also come with a sausage stuffer. Do you know how to make lap xuong? Please say you do. Can’t wait to use it more to make cha ca, gio lua and bo vien when I have more time.

        • Trang February 14, 2016 at 10:01 am #

          Hi Amy,
          You bought the Weston 8–that’s great! I checked it out after we chatted about it. I was concerned the paste would not be smooth and fine enough but it sounds like it does a good job. I appreciate you sharing your review. I have not tried making lap xuong and if you give it a try, you’ll have to share the recipe. 🙂

          • amy February 24, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

            update: I use the meat grinder machine to make gio song today. It does give a very fine paste result. ( if you grind it twice), The medium grinding plate seems to work better with meat . The fine grinding plate works better with fish . It doesn’t seem to do a good job in grinding meat

          • Trang February 29, 2016 at 9:28 pm #

            Hi Amy,
            I appreciate the update. Would you still conclude the meat grinder machine is faster and yields a smoother paste than a food processor?

          • amy March 2, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

            To me it is faster and give a rather smooth paste. I just don’t have much patience with the food processor so I guess it work for me. I just don’t like the cleaning part and have to make sure I don’t loose the part- grinding plate and knife ( since they are small parts)

          • Trang March 15, 2016 at 10:23 pm #

            Hi Amy,
            That’s good information. Cleaning the food processor is a chore too. If someone would invent a self-cleaning one, I’d be first in line to buy it. 🙂

  11. Sue January 20, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

    Great tecnnique! So talented! Thanks so much

    • Trang January 22, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

      Thanks Sue! You’re very sweet. I hope you give this recipe a try 🙂

  12. Thi Pham January 19, 2016 at 9:38 pm #

    Hi Trang, I love your blog very much. You make things very simple and yet delicious. Can you please share the recipe for spicy seafood fried rice when possible. My dad likes the dish but I have not been able to make as good as it is at some restaurants. Thank you very much!

    • Trang January 22, 2016 at 9:18 pm #

      Hi Thi,
      I am happy to hear you’re enjoying my blog! I think I know the dish you’re requesting and I’ll add it to the list for upcoming videos. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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