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Three slices of cha lua sitting on a cutting board lined with a banana leaf and a loaf of the cha lua nearby.

Cha Lua (Vietnamese Ham)

Course: Lunch / Sandwich
Cuisine: asian, Vietnamese
Keyword: how to make authentic cha lua, Pork Roll, Vietnamese ham recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Resting time in freezer: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 372kcal
Cha Lua (Vietnamese Ham) 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. Plan ahead, and take note that you'll need to allow the pork to sit in the freezer for 2 hours or in the fridge for overnight.
Print Recipe


  • Meat grinder Optional, but creates the perfect texture for the ham
  • Large food processor Or, use a smaller one, but process in a couple of batches
  • Steamer


  • lbs pork tenderloin cut into chunks
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • cup warm water 105°F to 115°F
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp potato starch or tapioca flour
  • 1 package banana leaves thawed, if frozen. Or quality plastic wrap


  • Run the pork pieces through a meat grinder, or have your butcher do this. If this isn't an option, you can skip this step.
    2½ lbs pork tenderloin
  • Place the pork in a large food processor and add the fish sauce, salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, powder, and onion powder. Pulse until fully incorporated.
    2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp Kosher salt, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder
  • Warm the water in the microwave. Whisk in the cream of tartar, baking soda, and potato starch.
    ⅔ cup warm water, 2 tsp cream of tartar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp potato starch
  • Pour the wet mixture into the meat mixture, and process for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Place the meat mixture in a medium bowl, cover, and place in the freezer for 2 hours, or in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Remove from the freezer (or refrigerator) and divide into two loaves.
  • Wrap each loaf tightly with several layers of banana leaves. Or, wrap tightly with plastic wrap (Saran Wrap works well). Secure all over with kitchen twine. See video and blog post photos for visual guidance.
    1 package banana leaves
  • Steam the loaves for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the cha lua in the steamer for 60 to 90 minutes.
  • Remove the string and plastic wrap and slice.


See the video near the top of the blog post for visual guidance. If you liked the video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel
If you don't have a meat grinder, just skip the first step, or ask your butcher to grind the pork tenderloin for you. You can also use pre-ground pork, but grinding in a meat grinder (and food processor) or just in the food processor will give you better results.
Don't mix the warm water with baking soda/cream of tartar/potato starch until just before you add it to the processed meat mixture.
Cooked cha lua will keep covered in the fridge for up to 6 days. It can be frozen for up to 2 months. 


Calories: 372kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 59g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 184mg | Sodium: 1712mg | Potassium: 1422mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 7IU | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 3mg