dinner/meat/recipes/vietnamese food

Nem Nuong/Grilled Vietnamese Pork Sausage Recipe

Posted May 30, 2017 by Stephanie

Nem Nuong/Grilled Vietnamese Pork Sausage Recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

It’s grilling season! Ever since our first mini grilling session, Mike and I have been living the patio life, grilling up anything and everything in sight. We’ve been doing a lot of vegetables, and along with those, we’ve been doing the every so classic Vietnamese nem nuong. If you guys haven’t had nem nuong, you’re missing out. Juicy, perfectly grilled pork seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, pepper, and a touch of sugar.

Nem nuong, or nem, which just means sausage, for short, is a staple on most Vietnamese menus. It’s a signature pink color (from food coloring) and you’ll usually see it grilled or pan-fried and served with rice or vermicelli. It comes in patties, balls, or sometimes on a skewer. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can order it with a ton of veggies and rice paper so you can roll up your own salad rolls.

I love nem so much that it was one of the first things I learned how to say properly, instead of just saying Vietnamese sausage. When I in my early twenties, I’d go to Vietnamese places with my brother and sister-in-law, Kim, and always order the vermicelli bowl with nem and spring rolls. Eventually Kim taught me that it was called bun nem nuong cha gio. Seriously SO good.

So, when Mike said that he was going to make homemade nem, I went a little wild! I didn’t know you could make it at home! I mean, who makes sausage at home?! You know the saying, “you never want to know how the sausage is made?” Well, with these guys you don’t have to worry because you know exactly what goes into it.

Nem Nuong/Grilled Vietnamese Pork Sausage Recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

Mike made these guys once and after that, kind of like sweet and savory garlic shallot chicken, I insisted on making it myself because I was in serious love. And fuck that shit that says when you love something you set it free. When you love something you hold it close. So close you almost smother it. But, in a way I guess I am setting this little recipe free because I really, really want you guys to make this!

It’s pretty easy: lightly toast some uncooked rice kernels for an amazing toasty aroma. Then pound the rice (or use a spice grinder if you have one) and make some roasted rice powder. The roasted rice powder is the secret and yes, it is absolutely necessary. After that, you’re essentially mixing/pounding a bunch of things together. Oh, there is one other ingredient that you probably don’t see much in sausage recipes: baking powder. I asked Mike what the purpose of it was and it’s for nem’s signature bouncy texture – the baking powder makes it so that the meat expands a bit when cooked.

I hope you guys get a chance to try these. And if you’re feeling really ambitious, make up a big batch of spring rolls and serve everything together with vermicelli, vegetables, and a ton of fish sauce. It’ll be an instant fave, I promise!

Nem Nuong/Grilled Vietnamese Pork Sausage Recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

Nem Nuong/Grilled Vietnamese Pork Meatballs Recipe
serves 2-4

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons rice (preferably jasmine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 small head of garlic (crushed)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons oil

Note: We use Red Boat Fish sauce, all fish sauces vary in salt levels, you may want to start with 1/2 tablespoon and go from there. To taste the seasoning, just microwave a tiny bit of the pork mixture until it’s cooked, then taste, and adjust.

Usually nem is a bright pink/red, from food coloring. We skipped out on that here, keeping it all natural.

In a small pan, toast the rice over medium heat, shaking the pan often, about 3 minutes. Once golden brown, let cool slightly and move to a mortar and pestle. Crush it into a fine powder. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In another small bowl, mix the baking powder and water together – it will be a little foamy.

Measure out 1 tablespoon of the crushed roasted rice powder, discarding the rest. Add the rice powder, crushed garlic, sugar, and pepper to your mortar and pestle and crush until your mixture becomes a paste. Slowly add in the fish sauce and continue crushing until well mixed (this is done to minimize fish sauce splashage). Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Finally, add oil and baking powder mixture and mix well.

In a medium bowl, mix together ground pork and the seasoning paste. Using the pestle, gently crush the ground pork and seasoning together for about 2 minutes, or until it becomes a smooth, even paste.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You can also make this the night before you want to grill as well.

After the pork has rested, form into small balls, about 2 teaspoons each. Skewer balls, 3 per wooden skewer.

Grill, over medium high heat, turning occasionally, until golden and lightly charred, about 5-7 minutes. Alternatively, you can form the pork into patties and pan fry or grill them. Enjoy immediately!


  1. Bryn Broussard says:

    A whole head of garlic, crushed?
    Cannot wait to make these!!!!

    1. Stephanie says:

      right?! i love garlic, the more the better ;)

  2. Crissy Saunders says:

    Where did you get your little grill from?

    1. Stephanie says:

      from japan but they sell it on amazon, right here!

      1. Andrew says:

        … wrong link?

        Also, it’s funny you say you were surprised to think of making nem nuong at home because you did make the Momofuku lemongrass pork sausage and as you said a few years ago, nem nuong is what it’s based on. =)

        1. Stephanie says:

          link fixed :)

          also, i barely remember that – you have an awesome memory! and thanks for being a reader for so long!

  3. Sarah says:

    Would brown rice work as a substitution for my very healthy mom?

    Lately I’ve been feeling particularly uninspired in the kitchen, and this looks like just the thing to jolt me out of my food funk. Thanks for sharing, I love your posts!

    1. Stephanie says:

      yes, you could totally use brown rice. it might not have the exact same flavor, but all you’re really going for is a nutty toastiness, which brown rice could be perfect for! so happy you’re inspired :)

  4. Renee says:

    Hi, what oil do you use for this recipe? Thanks so much!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi renee, a neutral oil – we used canola :)

  5. Brad Edwards says:

    I made these last night! I used toasted brown rice, and ‘Polar’ fish sauce. I took it easy on the fish sauce, but will add the full tablespoon next time. This was my first experience with Nem Nuong and it was delicious. The mixture smelled INCREDIBLE when rolling into balls.

    1. Stephanie says:

      yay! i just made some yesterday and i was smelling the mixture too and was simultaneously grossed out and delighted that raw pork could smell that good >_< so happy that you gave it a try and that you're gonna go the full fish sauce route next time!

  6. Lizzy says:

    Sorry if this is totally wrong, but you said this could be made in to patties- would it be (vietnamese inspired) burger appropriate?!

    1. Stephanie says:

      that sounds amazing! please let me know how it goes :)

  7. Zozora says:

    I love Vietnamese food! So glad you shared this recipe as I’ve eaten these Pork Meatballs at the restaurants. They usually serve it with vermicelli noodles or rice. It also goes well with spring rolls =)

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