An easy-to-make, sweet, garlicky, and smoky Vietnamese sausage (Nem Nuong) grilled on the BBQ. It tastes amazing when served as is as a snack or appetizer, added to vermicelli noodle dishes, or rolled into delicious Vietnamese spring rolls.
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Nem Nuong is a super flavorful and garlicky Vietnamese grilled pork sausage with a hint of sweetness to it and is typically served with a sweet and tangy Vietnamese dipping sauce (Nuoc cham).
It has a bit of a springy chewy to it and is usually served as an appetizer but as with most Asian cuisines, it's not just limited to that. It can be used in stir-fries, fried rice, rice noodle bowls (bun cha), salads, and the famous fresh Vietnamese rice spring rolls.
Why You'll Love This
- Instead of using straight-up pork fat to flavor these sausages, I blitz up bacon with garlic and shallots to make these pork sausages even more flavorful and juicier
- I don't use food coloring in it. I like to use annatto seeds to give the sausages their color. (Which you can completely skip as well)
- I don't use curing powders or baking powder to give this nem nuong its color or springiness. I use a tried and true method that is used to make springy Chinese dumplings by adding salt into the meat and overmixing it to bring out the meat glutens.
Nem Nuong Ingredients
You can find most of these ingredients at your local supermarket with the exception of toasted rice powder, fish sauce, rice wine, and annatto seeds which you can find at an Asian grocery store.
If you can't find the roasted rice powder, you can actually make this yourself with a few tablespoons of jasmine rice or sticky rice. Dry toast it in a frying pan until they are golden brown, and blitz it or crush it with a pestle and mortar and you have roasted rice powder! 🙂
For the rice wine, you can substitute it with dry sherry if it is difficult to find.
Annatto seeds are completely optional. It is only used to give the meat a different color and does not affect the flavor of the dish.
Pork fat is a big part of why this recipe is delicious, but instead of just straight-up pork fat, I like to use bacon blitzed up with garlic and shallots to give this sausage even MORE flavor!
How to Make Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausages
Color Without the Artificial Food Dyes
When it comes to color in foods, I prefer not to use artificial coloring or curing powders (sodium nitrate) partially because it doesn't really add any flavor to the food and it just adds a 'signature' color.
However, if you ever had Nem Nuong you'll know they are always a pink in hue and most of the time it's what I use to identify it as well. Plain cooked pork however is more of a light beigey brown in color, so how do you get that color a little more naturally?
I like to use annatto seeds. It's quite common in Vietnamese cooking (I use it to color the oil in my Bun Bo Hue recipe) and it gives a hint of nutty flavor as well.
How to Get That Springy Chewiness without Baking Powder
Salt and a lot of mixing will give you that springy texture in the meat. It's important to put the salt (or in this case fish sauce) into the meat before you start the mixing process since it is the salt that breaks down the proteins and makes the meat gluten come out.
I personally find it easiest and less messy to just knead the meat in a Ziploc bag. Firmly hitting it against a countertop or cutting board also helps remove air bubbles in the meat as well which will give you a firmer sausage (just make sure it is a reliable and well-sealed bag). I usually sit in front of the TV and knead it for about 15-25 minutes occasionally whacking it against a countertop 🙂 but the quickest and easiest way would be to use a food processor or stand mixer.
If you have a stand mixer or hand mixer and you don't mind the mess then I highly recommend using that to mix the meat for 15 minutes instead to save you some time and arm muscle.
How To Skewer Them So They Don't Fall Off
I like to start off with a 1 tablespoon to 1 ½ tablespoon of meat and create a ball with it. Then I skewer it onto the stick and squeeze it for the oval shape. You can keep them as round meatballs if you like. (You can even go skewer-less! 🙂 )
To keep the meat as securely on as possible, I noticed that you should have a good seal on the meat against the stick. Any type of hole or gap between the meat and the skewer will weaken the integrity of how well it can stay on the stick.
To create a good seal, I take my fingers and pinch the tops and bottoms of the meat and twist my finger slightly. Then I push gently push the ends just slightly towards the meatball so the meat is snug.
If you're curious about additional tips and hacks to secure ground meats on skewers, refer to my "How To Skewer Ground Meat (So That It Stays On The Sticks)" post to see all the additional methods I use.
Alternatively, you can also make it without skewers and just shape them into round or oval-shaped meatballs and grill them like that!
How to Serve Them
There's no right or wrong way to eat these but here are a few ways you can serve or eat them
- Eat them straight up, dipped in Nuoc Cham (fish sauce dipping sauce) with or without white rice - this is my preferred method. It's simple and delicious.
- Wrap them with lettuce, and vermicelli rice noodles and dip them in Nuoc Cham - this is one of my favorite ways to serve this with friends and family because it's a fun interactive way to entertain, especially at bbq get-togethers or parties.
- Make fresh spring rolls with them using rice paper. Dip a piece of rice paper in hot water quickly and fill it with lettuce, Thai basil (or any fresh herbs), vermicelli, and any type of fresh vegetables and dip it in a sweet and tangy Vietnamese dipping sauce.
- If you have a lot of leftover nem nuong, chop up the leftover nem nuong and make fried rice, fried noodles, or stir fry with some vegetables.
The pink you see is a by-product of using curing powders that contain sodium nitrate which gives it the pink color and preserves it.
Yes, nem nuong is cooked. Nem nuong's literal translation is 'Grilled Sausage', and is traditionally cooked on a grill.
Traditionally, these are made with pork but you can use any type of meat that is high in fat.
More Vietnamese Recipes You May Like
- Bo Kho - Vietnamese Beef Stew
- Nuoc Cham - Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
- Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops
- Bun Bo Hue - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
- Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp Vermicelli Noodle Bowl
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Grilled Vietnamese Pork Sausages (Nem Nuong)
- Food processor
- To save you some time, you can also make this as meatballs without skewers
- If you don't have a grill or charcoal smoker, you can also cook this in a frying pan as well but you will miss out on the smoky flavor.
- Mix the annatto oil last with a utensil so that you don't die your hands
- For more tips and tricks regarding skewering, refer to my page "How to Skewer Ground Meat (So That It Stays On the Sticks)"
Garlicky Bacon Fat
- 3 slices bacon
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 shallot (or small onion)
Annatto Oil (Optional for Colour)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon annatto seeds (optional)
Making the Garlicky Bacon Fat
- In a food processor, combine the garlic, shallots and bacon and blitz until a paste forms (I found it easier to chop everything up into smaller pieces first). If you don't have a food processor, you can chop this by hand, but it must be chopped very finely into almost a paste.
- Set aside for later
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are not making the annatto oil, you will still need the oil from the ingredient list. Just add it directly to the pork on the next step in the 'Mixing the Nem Nuong'
Making the Annatto Oil (Optional for Color)
- In a frying pan, set the heat to low and add the oil and annatto seeds in it. Let it toast until the colour from the seeds bleed out onto the oil (approximately 1-2 minutes)
- You will know it's done when the oil is a nice dark orange hue. Turn off the heat and remove the seeds from the pan. Set the oil aside to cool for later.
Mixing the Nem Nuong
- In a food processor or stand mixer, combine all the ingredients in the Nem Nuong Ingredient list and mix for 10-15 minutes.
- Add in the 'Garlicky Bacon Fat' mix and annatto oil you created earlier and continue to mix for another 5-10 minutes.
- Remove a little piece of meat and pan-fry or microwave it to do a taste test to see if it is salty enough (or sweet enough) to your preference. Not all fish sauces are created equal and some are saltier than others. Adjust the seasonings by adding more honey or more fish sauce to your liking.
- Once you are done, put the meat in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour to cool.
- Soak the skewers in a tall cup glass of water and set aside
Skewering the Ground Meat
- Once the meat is cold, remove it from the fridge and setup your skewering station and lightly oil your hands. If your hands are very hot or warm, run your wrist under cold water to cool them down a bit
- Take about 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of meat and roll it into a ball and skewer it. Gently squeeze your hand around the ball to form a oval shape (or you can keep it as a round meatball as well)
- If there is an opening or hole on the openings of the meat, seal it well by pinching the openings and gently twisting your finger and then sliding it slightly towards the meatball. (See blog post for photos)
- Continue to do this until all the meat is used up.
Grilling & Serving It
- Set your BBQ or charcoal grill to approximately 450F (232C) - 500F (260C) degrees. Once the grill is hot, add the skewers on and close the lid.
- Cook the skewers for about 3-4 minutes until the meat becomes firm. Give it a gentle poke to see if it is still mushy. If it still mushy it will be very difficult to flip it. Wait until it is firm before trying to flip it.
- Once the meatballs are firm and cooked, you no longer need to use the lid anymore and can grill it over the open fire to start browning it by flipping it every 1-2 minutes for approximately 10-12 minutes.
- You will know the meat is done when it is very firm and browned evenly.
- Serve it over some vermicelli noodles, use it in Vietnamese rice spring rolls or eat them as is with Nuoc Cham sauce! 🙂
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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