Friday, November 28, 2008

Mom's Recipes: Nem Nướng & Ram Tôm Cuốn (Pork Meatballs & Shrimp Spring Rolls)

Cuốn ram nem (pork meatballs rolled with shrimp spring rolls) is one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes and not just because it's particular to the region my mom comes from! I love, love nem nướng (pork meatballs) and love even more rolling it with ram tôm (shrimp spring rolls).

While nem nướng (pork meatballs) is eaten across Vietnam, this combination with ram tôm (shrimp spring rolls) is particular to Quảng Ngãi, where my mom comes from, and really to the south-central region - I learnt this from Wandering Chopsticks. We actually simply call this dish nem nướng and it is insinuated that we roll it with ram tôm.

Alternatively, nem nướng is served with bún (rice vermicelli) and nước chấm. When I was in Vietnam, there was a restaurant near my place with the best nem nướng. The owner would grill the pork meatballs right on the street and I wouldn't be able to resist buying some!

This recipe has two major steps, nem nướng (pork meatballs) and ram tôm (fried shrimp spring rolls), but it is totally worth the effort. It's not that hard anyway. It's also quite an effort to write a post with multiple steps, but I want to share this because it is SO good! So hopefully, my three readers appreciate this!

Nem Nướng (Grilled Pork Meatballs)
One of the key ingredients for nem nướng is garlic, but you can substitute it with garlic powder if you prefer. For best results, these meatballs should be grilled on charcoal as it is traditionally done. Since November in Canada is not conducive to grilling, you can also broil it! If you do grill, make sure the meatballs are slightly oiled so they do not stick to the grill.

* 6 cloves garlic, minced very well
* 1 kg ground pork, about 2 parts lean and 1 part medium lean
* 1-½ tsp salt
* 4 tbsp sugar
* 1 tbsp cornstarch
* bamboo skewers
* oil

Mix all the ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
Wet your hands with cold water so the meat doesn’t stick to your hands.
Shape about a tablespoon of the ground pork mixture into meatballs.
Skewer the meatballs onto the bamboo skewers. (Although my mom never follows this step, you can soak the bamboo skewers so they don't burn.)
Drizzle a bit of oil over the meatballs.
Broil on HIGH for about 10 minutes on each side or until golden - or BBQ them outside in the summer.

Ground pork mixture.

Pork meatballs.

Skewered meatballs.

Don't these look tasty? I could go for more now...

Ram Tôm (Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls)
In Vietnam, they use small shrimps that have thinner skins and they are used whole. My mom is a bit economical and slices the shrimps in two. However, you can use whole shrimps.

* 1 package egg roll
* 24 large shrimps, sliced lengthwise
* oil for deep frying, enough to submerge the spring roll

Place one egg roll wrapper, with one corner folded.
Line two shrimp halves
Roll the wrapper to cover the shrimp.
Fold in each side.
Continue rolling.
Heat up oil. You can test it by adding a spring roll - the oil is hot enough when little bubbles form around.
Deep fry each spring rolls.

Shrimp on top of the egg roll wrapper.

Folding each side in.

Completed shrimp spring roll.

Shrimp spring roll ready to be fried.

Crispy shrimp spring rolls.

Tương Nem Nướng - Sauce for Nem Nướng
My sister enjoys this peanut based sauce for nem nướng. I am happy just dipping it in Thai chili sauce.

* ⅙ cup gạo nếp (sticky rice)
* ⅙ cup đậu xanh (mung bean)
* 2 cups water
* ¼ cup peanut butter
* ½ tsp salt or to taste
* 1 tbsp sugar or to taste

Cook sticky rice and mung beans in water.
Bring to a boil.
Cook for about half an hour until the rice and beans are cooked.
Remove any foam.
Process the mixture with peanut butter.
Season with salt and sugar to taste.

Sticky rice and mung bean mixture.

Peanut sauce with added chili sauce.

Cuốn Ram Nem (Pork Meatballs & Shrimp Spring Rolls)
This is the combination that is particular to the south-central region of Vietnam, rolling everything in rice paper. Wandering Chopsticks also has a version of this dish. The fresh ingredients are the same that are used with bánh xèo (Vietnamese crepes). Again because of the richess of the pork meatballs and shrimp spring rolls, we like to roll with a sour ingredients; ideally, it would be green mango or starfruit but we've substituted with green apple.

* rice paper
* lettuce
* cucumber sticks
* a tart fruit, like green apples, mangoes or starfruit
* herbs, such as mint
* nem nướng, sliced in half lengthwise
* ram tôm

Dip rice paper in warm water and place on a flat plate.
Line nem nướng and ram tôm on top of the wet rice paper at one end.
Add ingredients as you like - the lettuce, cucumber and herbs add freshness, a tart ingredient adds contrast.
Fold the rice paper over the ingredients, then the edges.
Continue rolling.
Dip in sauce.

The fresh ingredients.

Line up your ingredient on a moist rice paper.

Top with more ingredients.

Rice paper filled with yuminess.

Each bite includes pork meatball, shrimp spring roll and fresh vegetables!

Dip your roll in the sauce and enjoy!


White on Rice Couple said...

This is a killer post. Wow, there's so much hard and work and love into every delicious word!
I love that you put green apple in the spring rolls. My Dad loves green apple in his too!

Gastronomer said...

Nice! I'm totally buying Vern a grill so that we can make thit and nem nuong! XO!!

Miss.Adventure said...

WoRC: I'm glad you enjoyed one of my favourite Viet recipes. I can't believe someone else adds green apple to their rolls!!

Gastronomer: You totally should get a grill. But you should get a charcoal one so you can crouch down and fan the coals. My mom still does that in the summer, with a funny scarf around her hair!!

Jenny said...

Wow never heard of that sauce before; will have to try that out next time I have nem nuong.
Great post! :)