Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vietnamese ham - speciality from North

How can I translate this into English, is it ham? or is it sausage ? I prefer to call it ham as I feel our traditional chả which made of lean pork or beef, more similar to ham, but we can call it sausage too.
I said chả - speciality from North because in Hà Nội the variety of chả is much richer than in South, and the quality is also different - better!

             Vietnamese ham shop in Lý Tự Trọng - Giò chả Minh Châu, popular spot with good quality ham.

 What's chả ? This's a special dish made of well-pounded lean pork, potato starch with some other ingredients such as garlic, peppercorn, fish sauce... And it depends on what kind of chả, some other secret ingredients may be added, such as young rice for fried chả cốm (tasty but sticky!) or special spice like aromatic dill to fried beef ham (chả bò) or cinnamon to famous chả quế (cinnamon ham). 

                   Chả bò - fried beef ham with an extra flavor from dill.

But here we are not talking how to prepare a good quality, irresistible chả, it would be a big secret that we may never learn from the makers, esp. in North, when it's a generation-to-generation family business without leaking out to the outsiders.

                 Chả cốm - ham with young rice, tasty but a bit sticky due to young rice (?)  

I did introduce our ham (or chả) to some foreign friends, the only problem they face is - they can smell the fish sauce, so if you have a problem with it, you don't like chả, but better give it a try, with a good a baguette!

                Baguette with some slices of chả bò (fried beef ham) - one of my all-time favorite breakfast!

We eat chả almost every day, we can find chả in many dishes, chả can be as an "independent" element but in most case we are having chả with some other stuff: either bread (most favorite) or sticky rice cake (bánh dày, I love this one - my first childhood's street food!), savory stick rice, or in some rice noodles dish.

                Ham with young rice (chả cốm) sticky, the ones from Hà Nội are much better in taste. 

Talking about chả we have a quite good proverb in our folklore "Husband is having ham, wife is having spring roll" (ông ăn chả, bà ăn nem). I need to explain. This proverb is not about how good are our delicacies, nor the equality between husband and wife (!), but about the unfaithful relationship in marriage. If husband has an affair, why not wife? And "nem" here is another our famous traditional dish that I'd love to share it one day!

How many kinds of chả we have ? As chả can made of pork, beef, fish, cuttlefish, shrimp...but for daily cooking or meal, only pork and beef are the most popular, fish is also getting there.

The most popular among chả - it's chả lụa (literally means silk ham), the word "silk" could come from the color - light pink or from the smooth but a bit strong texture. Silk ham varies in flavor and taste, it depends on the province. I heard and agreed that if we buy chả lụa from North at the right place - it would be one of the best, but I probably prefer chả from Central area, the taste is a bit sweeter but more aromatic!

               Chả lụa (silk ham!) the most popular among all kinds of chả. 

Chả is a "must" for many celebrations, esp. for our Tết - Lunar New Year, for the first New Year's meal, the death anniversary...but back to our routine life, I love to have simply chả with a good baguette, no other stuffs, just sprinkle a bit salt and pepper, maybe a some slices of fresh cucumber. I'll surely enjoy it!

               Ham with young rice - chả cốm, speciality from North! 

                 Fried ham (chả chiên) at Minh Châu shop in Lý Tự Trọng street. 

          Minh Châu shop, specialized in Northern delicacies, esp. ham and sticky rice cake (bánh chưng)

      Giò chả Minh Châu - 78 Lý Tự Trọng, district 1, HCMC.  


  1. Hi,
    I really like your blog and read it all the time. I especially like the pictures. I was wondering about the Cha Com, is it actually rice inside the ham? I have never seen this before. I have seen the ham with pieces of pig skin and pig tendon inside, but not rice. Anyway, your blog is excellent. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you for checking my blog! Yeah, it's young rice, when I first tried, I thought it was fat but then I was told no it's young rice, that's why a bit sticky!

    2. Thanks for your quick response. I will have to try to find some Cha Com in Canada (where I live). I've seen all the Cha you've described and one with pig fat/skin/tendon in it, and even Cha Ca (fish ham), so some place must have Cha Com as well. I must find it because young rice in ham sounds so delicious!

    3. Thanks for your prompt response too. Hope you will find Cha Com in Canada, but to be honest I doubt! Anyway good luck! I'm going to Hanoi tomorrow for my own business, but I keep in mind to find the place where they are selling all kinds of ham along the street! I saw once long ago, early in the morning, very impressive!
      I miss Cha Que (cinnamon ham) in my post, yeah and the one you mentioned. Besides I still have some secret missions for my blog! Please do check when you have time! Cheers


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