A Vietnamese BBQ family gathering is not complete without Vietnamese BBQ pork (nem nướng). Nướng directly translates to grilled and nem refers to sausage or patty. These grilled pork patties are sweet, strong in umami flavour, smoky, firm and bouncy in texture but, most importantly to me, a traditional Vietnamese dish that creates a sensory experience.
Sweetness is the dominant flavour when it comes to nem nướng, mainly due to the Tsurino seasoning powder. Savoury and peppery notes from fish sauce and a generous amount of garlic help cut through the sweetness. However, just as the cooking process is complete, glazing the nem nướng with honey adds a completely different dynamic to its sweetness and texture. The natural sweetness of honey can be differentiated from the sweet notes in the Tsurino seasoning powder, and when caramelised in the final stages of cooking, adds a slightly crispy and charred character to the already firm and bouncy nem nuong.
Like pork and prawn spring rolls, mum and I took control of the nem nướng section at every family BBQ. When I used to help mum, my role was to help with ‘working’ the mince in the mixing process. Mum claimed that this was critical to achieve the firm and bouncy texture signature to nem nuong. We would both sit for 30 minutes with a large mixing bowl and mix kilos of meat with our bare hands.
Now that I have moved out of home and discovered the world of stand mixers, that same amount of dedication is not necessary, although it’s a mother and son interaction I miss dearly. A stand mixer and a meat paddle blade is ideal to achieve the texture that defines nem nướng. Unlike Italian meatballs, nem nướng should not crumble or easily break apart. Because of this, when added to crispy Vietnamese bread rolls, chewy rice paper rolls or soft rice noodles, it adds to the textural complexity that is synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine.
At home, if you have time to spare, a stand mixer is not required. Mixing the pork by hand is a fun activity to involve kids in. The more hands the better! So, during the next school holidays do your family a favour, and let the kids help you achieve the perfect nem nướng texture and flavour!
Vietnamese BBQ Pork
1.5 kg pork shoulder, minced
30g cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Son fish sauce
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
350g Tusino curing powder
3 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons oil
BBQ (or oven)
Stand mixer with paddle blade
Add all ingredients to stand mixer bowl and mix on low until well combined.
Mix on medium-high until pork mince becomes elastic and sticky in texture (8-10 minutes).
Remove from stand mixer bowl and divide into three equal portions.
Shape each portion into large 2.5cm - 3cm thick patties.
Cook in an oven, or for best results, BBQ over charcoal.
Place in oven at 180°C for 20-25 minutes until internal temperature reaches 68°C.
Baste both sides with honey and return to oven at 220°C for 5 minutes.
Place on BBQ and cook on low-medium heat until internal temperature is 68°C.
Baste both sides with honey and BBQuntil internal temperature reaches 70°C.