What is a Vietnamese Pork Roll?
The Vietnamese Pork Roll/Sausage is the main player in our sandwich called the “Hanoi Classic.” It is called “cha lua” in Vietnamese or “moo yaw” in Thai.
It’s in a variety of dishes in Vietnam, mostly in small appetizers like “banh cuon” which is a rice crepe. Is is also commonly found in the “banh mi” or Vietnamese sandwich with the typical banh mi players of mayo, cucumbers, pickled carrots, pickled daikon radish, jalapenos & cilantro. (Note: we have left out the pickled daikon radish on our version as it has a strong taste as well as smell — think “methane.”)
In Thailand, it is generally made in the Isaan region and is typically eaten simply pan-fried and with rice or in a salad form called “yum moo yaw,” which is spicy and scrumptious. I’ll have a recipe for yum moo yaw below.
The main ingredient is pork, potato starch and fish sauce. The fish sauce gives it a strong smell which is mellowed out after it is pan-fried. The pork must be pounded into a paste not chopped out ground. It needs to be smooth in texture. It is then wrapped in a banana leaf into a cylinder and boiled. The pork roll must then be cooked, generally pan-fried, before being consumed. I like having a nice crisp texture when eating it. The pork roll we use is the one pictured above in the middle. There is another type which is pictured to the left which has pork fat and pig ear added giving it more texture. Personally I do not prefer this type as the added fat gives it a slimy texture.
The closest place to buy the pork roll is in Portland at any of the Asian markets. My 2 favorite markets are Hanukmen on Forest Ave or Makot Pech on St. John St. It is found in the freezer aisle.
Yum Moo Yaw Recipe: Thai-Style Pork Roll Salad
1 Pork Roll (Typically 2 lb roll) halved and sliced thin
2 small shallots sliced thin
1/2 small cucumber quartered & sliced thin
1 small tomato sliced into wedges
Thai bird chili (1 is enough for good heat, add as many as you prefer though be forewarned they are tiny but give a bang) sliced
1 -2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp fish sauce or thin soy sauce
10-15 mint leaves torn
2 scallions cut into 1/2 in pieces
2 sprigs cilantro coarsely chopped
1.) Pan-fry the sliced pork roll with a touch of vegetable oil until heated through on medium heat
2.) Mix with the rest of the ingredients and enjoy with salad greens or sticky rice
The flavor profile of this dish is spicy, sour and salty — adjust the amount of fish sauce/thin soy sauce, lime juice and bird chili according to your preference.