Cha Lua (Vietnamese Ham) aka Pork Roll

When I decided I wanted to make my own Banh Mi sandwich, a Vietnamese classic street food item, I realized I needed to learn how to make this Cha Lua recipe (Vietnamese Ham aka Pork Roll).

It may seem a little intimidating at first, but it really is quite easy.

cha lua recipe

I made a trip to my favorite Asian Market, and got the ingredients, which included Alsa baking powder and tapioca flour.

If you don’t have an Asian market near by, you can easily order them by clicking here: Alsa Baking Powder and Tapioca Flour

These are important ingredients and used in traditional Vietnamese cooking. 

Cha Lua recipe

I really like taking a pork tenderloin and placing it through the meat grinder.

You can easily ask your butcher to do this, or you could even use your large food processor (after cutting the meat into the 1/2-inch chunks).

Or, you could just use ground pork in the meat section of your food market.

Cha Lua recipe

Pouring the wet mixture into the meat mixture and then processing really brings about a delicious almost airy quality to the cooked meat.

This is really fun to make!

Cha Lua recipe

Now, wrap the meat into banana leaves or good ole plastic wrap.

Don’t worry, the plastic wrap is not harmful to cook with. I did extensive research on this to be sure.

I easily tied the wrap both directions with kitchen twine.

So cool!

Cha Lua recipe

Next, into my bamboo steamer they went to steam for 30 minutes.

I’m loving this so much!

And I REALLY love my double-stacked bamboo steamer!

Cha Lua recipe

The loaf steamed and cooked perfectly.

When I removed the pork roll out of the steamer, it was perfect!

Woo hoo! My visions of an authentic Banh Mi are getting clearer now!

Cha Lua recipe

I let the Cha Lua cool down a bit, then removed the strings and wrap.

I sliced so easily and the smell was really wonderful.

We couldn’t believe how much we loved this Cha Lua!

Cha Lua recipe

The Loon and I were really surprised at how delicious it is.  Obviously, its great on Banh Mi sandwiches, but it’s great in a grilled cheese and tomato sammy, or used in a Ramen noodle soup, or by itself with soy and hot sauce.

And then I made my own Banh Mi, using my homemade Cha Lua recipe.

All I can say is “WOW!” Just look at that sandwich!

Banh Mi Sandwich
Banh Mi Sandwich

This Cha Lua recipe is really, really good…and a lot of fun to make!  

Go for it

Cha Lua (Vietnamese Ham aka Pork Roll)

This Cha Lua (Vietnamese Ham aka Pork Roll) is a must when you're making the classic Banh Mi Sandwich. But it is so good for so many other uses. Traditionally, the ham is steamed in banana leaves, but wrapping tightly in wrap works just fine. (And I did the research, using a brand like Saran Wrap is safe...it does not contain any harmful plasticizers and is safe to use during the steaming process). Bottom line...this Cha Lua is delicious! You'll need to start the Cha Lua the night before you cook it.

Course: Asian
Cuisine: asian
Keyword: Pork Roll, Vietnamese cuisine
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 276 kcal
Author: Adapted from Charles Phan

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs lean ground pork
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce*
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 package Alsa baking powder about 1 tablespoon**
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour**
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 package banana leaves** or quality plastic wrap
  • *available in the Asian section of supermarkets or in Asian Food Markets
  • **available at Asian Food Markets

Instructions

  1. Place meat in food processor and add the fish sauce, salt, sugar, pepper, garlic and onion powders. Pulse until fully incorporated.
  2. Add the baking powder and flour to the warm water (do not prep this mixture until just before you are ready to add it to the meat mixture).
  3. Pour the wet mixture into the meat mixture, and process for 30 seconds.
  4. Place the meat mixture in a medium bowl, cover, and place in fridge for overnight.
  5. The next day, remove the meat from the fridge, and divide into two loaves.
  6. Wrap each loaf tightly with banana leaves, or plastic wrap (Saran Wrap works well). Repeat with another layer.  If using banana leaves, wrap one more time with plastic wrap. 

  7. Tie kitchen string around each loaf, lengthwise, and several times width-wise.
  8. Steam the loaves for 50 - 60 minutes. (Internal temp should be 145°F.  Slice and check for doneness, if not fully cooked, re-wrap and steam for another 15 minutes). 

  9. Remove the string and plastic wrap and slice.

Recipe Video

 

11 Comments

    • Yes, you absolutely can. Alsa is just the kind used in Vietnamese…it’s French, which has major influence in Viet cooking. Regular will work, too. This is really good! Let us know if you make it and what you think! Best, Kris & Wesley

    • Hi Michelle, parchment paper could be a problem. You would need to secure the paper tightly around the meat so it will not expand and leak in the steamer. Banana leaves work, though, so maybe the parchment paper would too! Let us know if you try it! Very curious to know!! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • Awesome recipe, thanks so much for posting!

    Quick question if you’re/anyone is still moderating this post, what do you mean by “do not prep this mixture until just before you are ready to add it to the meat mixture”? Does that mean the wet mixture should sit for a certain amount of time before it’s poured into the meat mixture? If that’s the case, then how much time should the wet mixture sit, at a minimum, before it’s poured into the meat mixture?

    • HI Kim! Just mean once you add the baking powder and the flour to the warm water, give it a quick stir, and then immediately add it to the meat mixture. You don’t want it to settle and then add it in. This helps with the texture of the finished ham. I hope that is clear, if not, let us know! And please stay in touch! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • Kris and Wes….
    Puts westernised asian dudes like me to absolute shame.
    You guys are outright kitchen kahunas ! Thank you
    I think BPA free cling wrap is fine for steaming.
    The cheddar went with vietnamese ham despite the garlic and fish sauce?
    Wondering if it goes with some seeded mustard and/or mayo with a hint of chilli

    Gusto mangiare !

    • Thank you, Pete! I think this is the kind of recipe that can definitely be played around with to taste your liking. I tried to stick with the traditional cha lua version here. I had the same thoughts about the grilled cheese sammy, and I have to tell you, it was really delicious! Mustard seed, mayo and chili would make it even that much better. Love it all!! Thanks for your note, and stay in touch!

  • I bow down to you for even attempting this. I like making my own banh mi sandwiches and am always looking for a reliable cha lua recipe. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, Sophie! I did a bunch of research, and pieced together this recipe. I, too, love a really good banh mi sandwich, but really wanted it all to be as fresh as possible. And both Wesley and I were really surprised at how delicious and relatively easy to make was this cha lua! I seared a few pieces last night, and then made an incredible grilled cheese with fresh cha lua, tomatoes and cheddar. Wow! We LOVED it! Thanks for letting me hear from you…please stay in touch! All the best, Kris & Wesley.

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