Cured / Fermented Pork (Nem Chua)

This unique dish is typically made with raw pork which is then fermented. In this recipe shortcut, we use cooked ham. | recipe from runawayrice.comIf dishes could be classified as masculine or feminine, Cured Pork or Fermented Pork is a manly dish because it’s a favorite snack with the men when they’re hanging out and drinking beers.  The tartness of the appetizer in contrast to the cold, often bitter beer, spicy garlic and chilies is an addicting combination.  If you’re making this as a treat for the boys, make a double batch.  Gals, this dish isn’t just for the boys, so make sure you save some for yourself before they eat it all up.

Notes on the recipe

This dish is traditionally made with raw pork which is fermented with a combination of salts and nitrates.  If you’re squeamish about eating raw meat, albeit fermented, you’ll love this recipe twist which uses cooked ham.

I use leftover Easter ham which is typically a glazed, spiral cut ham.  If you don’t have any leftover ham, deli ham works well too.

The cooked and sliced pork skin that I use was previously frozen.  The instructions on the package tell you to rinse it with cold water but I prefer to blanch it to remove the odor common with this product.

Watch the video below for instructions.


1 1/2 lbs cooked ham
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 lb cooked and sliced pork skin
1 tsp salt
5 garlic cloves
1/2 Tbsp black peppercorns

for Garnish
1 bunch fresh Vietnamese coriander, washed and plucked
sliced red chilies
sliced garlic


Combine water, vinegar and sugar in a large bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Cut the ham into smaller pieces.  Put the sliced ham into the marinade making sure it’s immersed in the liquid.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.  Transfer to a colander and allow to drain for 15 minutes.

Smash the black peppercorns and set aside for now.

Bring a large pot to a rapid boil and add the salt.  Add the pork skin and swirl in the boiling water for 15 seconds.  Drain and rinse with cool water a few times.  Stir and toss the pork skin in the colander to remove the excess water.  Use a salad spinner if you have one.  Transfer the pork skin into a food processor and pulse 6 times.  Transfer into a large wok and spread out evenly to avoid clumping.

Put half of the ham into the food processor along with 2 garlic cloves.  Pulse for 45 seconds to 1 minute.  Transfer into the wok.  Repeat the steps with the remaining ham and garlic.

Over Low heat, combine the ham with the pork skin mixing it thoroughly.  Add 2 Tbsp water.  Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring constantly.  Add the smashed peppercorns, toss together and then remove from the heat.

Scoop out 1 cup of the mixture and spread evenly into an 8×8-inch dish.  Repeat the steps adding a total of 4 cups of the mixture into the dish.  Use your hands to press the mixture firmly into the pan filling in any gaps.  Use a spatula to firmly press the mixture into the pan making it smooth and even across the top.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

Put 3/4 cup of the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Shape it into a log.  Wrap the plastic wrap firmly around the log.  Twist the ends to compress the log.  Remove the plastic wrap and discard.  Place coriander leaves, sliced chilies and garlic on the log and then tightly wrap in plastic wrap.  Repeat until all the mixture is used and 4 logs are made.  Refrigerate the logs for 4 hours.

To serve the cured pork as an appetizer, cut into small pieces and garnish with more coriander leaves, sliced garlic and chilies.  Optionally add the cured pork as a side for noodle bowls and other savory plates.

Refrigerate any uneaten portions.  The cured pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yields: 1-8×8 inch dish and 4-4 oz rolls

Cured Pork enjoyed with your favorite adult beverage! | recipe from

Cured Pork is served with savory steamed rice cakes for a tasty meal. | recipe from

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16 Responses to Cured / Fermented Pork (Nem Chua)

  1. Diana` May 13, 2021 at 5:18 pm #

    I tried to find the Pork Sliced Skin at the Asian grocery store. I couldn’t find it. Could you tell me where it will be nearby in the frozen section? So I can try to look which section it is closer. Ex: Dim Sum Frozen section etc. Thanks! Going to try to make it with Ham.

  2. Kim March 29, 2021 at 3:12 pm #

    Hi. First time I made this, it was excellent EXCEPT I would have soaked it a bit longer than the 12 hours I soaked.
    The second time I made it, I soaked it for 25 hours. It still wasn’t as tart as I’d like so I will just leave out the water next time.
    The problem I have that I thought I’d share with you is the size of the minced meat matters. At least to me. The first time I made it, I chopped the pork skin shreds by hand and it was great. I minced up the ham in the processor which allows me to choose the size of the cut-ups.
    The first time was delicious (except I preferred slightly more tarty)

    The second time I made it, I used a brand new food processor and it was very strong and basically minced up all the meat into pieces the size of coarse black peppers. It did the same with the pork skin. In my opinion, the ham and pork skin needs to be a bit bigger cut to make this dish enjoyable to eat. Mincing it too finely results in it breaking apart in your mouth.

  3. Sara July 25, 2018 at 4:40 pm #

    Why did mine turn out mush and not firm?

    • Trang July 25, 2018 at 5:08 pm #

      Hi Sara,
      It’s really hard to say. Did you make any changes to the recipe?

      • Annie March 15, 2021 at 9:34 am #

        I just tried mine it turn out too firm. Not sure why because I press too hard??

  4. Theresa August 24, 2017 at 4:38 am #

    Hi there, I was wondering, when do you add the salt?

    • Trang August 25, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

      hi Theresa,
      Add the salt when boiling the pork skin. Good Luck with the recipe!

    • Misa May 31, 2020 at 7:02 am #

      Instead of putting into a pan and I make all of them into a log ?

      • Trang June 28, 2021 at 2:46 pm #

        Yes, this works too.

  5. Darin December 15, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    I’d like to make beef nem chua for my office but a few of my co-workers can not have pork. Is there a way to make this dish either the original way or shortcut way without the pork skin?

    • Trang December 16, 2016 at 10:00 am #

      Hi Darin,
      The pork skin provides the gelatin to bind everything together. You can use gelatin in the powdered form instead of the pork skin but, keep in mind, gelatin is an animal byproduct. If you’re familiar with using agar agar, this is a good vegetarian substitute for gelatin. Let me know if you have any questions.

      • Thanh Nhã January 9, 2017 at 5:19 am #

        Hi Trang,

        If I would like to replace all pork skin by gelatin, how much is it for this recipe?!

        • Trang January 11, 2017 at 8:29 pm #

          Hi Thanh,

          Use 2 tsp unflavored gelatin. Mix it with the water and then combine with the ham. Good Luck!

  6. Chi October 20, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    Hi Trang, we followed your recipes but the nem is not chua at all. What did I do wrong?

    • Trang October 21, 2015 at 12:55 am #

      Hi Chi,

      Did you let the ham soak for 8 hours? What kind of cooked ham and vinegar did you use? If you followed the ingredients list exactly, you can soak for longer than 8 hours if you would like the nem to be more tart. Some hams are sweeter than others and require a longer soaking time. You can also omit the water and just soak in pure vinegar if you like it extra tart. Hope that helps! 🙂

  7. Lmnhg May 17, 2015 at 6:51 am #

    Hi Trang

    We love your recipes… the way do you know how to make banh lot?

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