The word “Nem” in Vietnamese culinary culture

Referring to Nem, it will probably bring about the phenomenon: “nine people ten comments” because each region has each food with the same name: “Nem” 🧐

It is hard to find a “standard” definition for Nem, because Nem in Vietnamese cuisine is a very “vague” noun that can be used to refer to some dishes in different ways, with different shapes and produced in different regions. Nem can be used to refer to ground meat mixed with spices before being cooked, also be used for roll dishes, fermented raw meat or even mix dishes.

Let’s learn about “Nem”:
💥Pureed pork mix with grilled spice- Nem Nuong Nha Trang:
The word “nem” is often used to refer to minced meat which is often seasoned with spices and then grilled, giving it the name “Nem nướng”, the word “nướng” literally means “grill”. Nem nướng has various versions made in different regions. However, people all share the same basic method of making which is to mix ground meat with spices and then grill them on fire.

💥Fermented raw meat – Nem chua:
Another meaning of the word “Nem” is fermented raw meat, often called “nem chua”. Like grilled “nem”, “nem chua” has several different versions, however, the common making process includes mixing pork meat with “thính” ( powdered grilled rice ) such spices as garlic, chili then wraps the mixture in banana leaves and finally hang them at a cool place for about three days. The principle of making this dish is to take advantage of the natural yeast in banana leaves and powdered grilled rice to ferment the meat. Once properly fermented, the meat has a slightly sour taste, which makes it delicious in its own way.

💥Fried spring rolls:

“Nem rán” ( Fried spring rolls ) is the name of a dish that is made of minced meat wrapped in rice paper and deep-fried. In some southern provinces of Vietnam, this dish is also called “chả giò”. Sometimes, the word “nem rán” is shortened to “nem”. Fried spring rolls ( Nem rán ) is a popular dish which is indispensable in the dining tables of Vietnamese people during Lunar New Year Holiday.

💥Noodle rolled with shrimp and meat- Summer Rolls
Summer Rolls are very different from fried spring roll in spite of their similar shape. Summer rolls are also called salad rolls because the ingredients are mainly veggies and herbs. Other stuffings of Summer Rolls also include noodles, boiled shrimp and boiled meat. The rice papers used as wrappers can be transparent and hard rice papers. As all filling ingredients can be eaten raw or cooked before, they can be eaten immediately right after the rolling is done. 

Pork skin and pork meat mixed with powdered grilled rice: Nem Tai
“Nem chao” or “Nem thinh”, are other names of “Nem Tai”, used to refer to dishes made of mixed raw vegetables. In some areas such as Quang Nam and Da Nang, there is a dish called Nem Tre, which shares the same making method. “Nem Chao” is made from sliced boiled pork meat, diced boiled fat, then mixed with spices and powdered grilled rice and eaten with leaves and fruits such as figs, clove leaves, star fruit …

💥All in all, plenty of dishes all share the name “Nem”, however, they are totally different from one another in terms of ingredients, making the process, serving styles. This is probably the reason why the world-famous chef Gordon Ramsay, who planned to “acquire” Vietnamese cuisine in only seven short days, had to finally admit that he was a naive man. Seven days is never enough for even a genius chef to learn all kinds of “Nem” like that!

💦Below are some venues that we recommend you should try:
🌵Nem nướng: Đường Y, thị trấn Trâu Quỳ, Gia Lâm, Hà Nội ( Học viện Nông Nghiệp Việt Nam) 
43 Chùa Láng, Đống Đa, Hà Nội
🌵Nem chua: 38 quận Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm
Nem chua phố Tạ Hiện
🌵Nem rán: 74 Hàng Quạt
🌵Gỏi cuốn: 18 Phan Bội Châu, Quận Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
🌵Nem tai: 37 Hàng Thùng, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
19 Phạm Hồng Thái, Hà Nội.

And if you want to enjoy the “Nem” with some stories from Hanoi-Student Tour guide, do not hesitate to book a street food tour with Hanoiebuddies

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