I’m in a mild quandary with this one. I’ve long contested that Vietnamese food in Vietnam is a lot better than Vietnamese food not in Vietnam – possibly unless you’re in California or Little Saigon in New Jersey. However… I’ve been snacking on these things from the
Chinese ethnic oriental Asian supermarket in Toulouse for a few months now and I’ve got to say – deep intake of breath – they’re better than the Vietnamese in Vietnam version. This is nem chua. It’s pounded, fermented pork, prodded with enough garlic and chilli to lose you at least one close friend and it comes decorated with a leaf. In Vietnam, they come tightly wrapped in a banana leaf in long sticks. It’s a Hanoi dish and is commonly found on tables in bia hoi.
It’s less common in the south of Vietnam. A bag of nem chua in Toulouse come wrapped in foil and cost €4.70. In Vietnam one stick is around 2,000 Vietnam dong or €0.09. Putting price to one side for a minute, these hot savoury, almost juicy snacks make for great apéritif food. The leaf you can see, which I think is called la tam ruot, is edible and adds an earthy zap – whatever that is 🙂 – to the whole snack experience. Ideal with a tot of pastis or a wee beaker of muscat. I like lots. But ’tis pricey. Sticky Rice must have blogged it, but a quick search comes up with zilcho. Vietnamnet Bridge has the legend behind the snack.