It’s incredible how much flavour is packed into these little Vietnamese pork patties. Served with the sweet, salty and sour taste of the dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham), it’s hard to stop at just one.
Vietnamese Pork Patties with dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham)
I lost count of how many Vietnamese pork patties l ate on my recent trip to Vietnam. Not being a natural lover of pork, l was impressed at how something as humble as pork mince (ground pork) can be transformed into a powerhouse of flavour using only a handful of ingredients. These little pork patties can be eaten as appetisers or as a main over a bed of rice noodles with fresh herbs.
No matter how you eat them, the dipping sauce is an absolute must!!! The sweet, salty, sour combination further enhances the flavour of the pork patties to an irresistible level!
I learnt how to make the dipping sauce at Luke Nguyen’s (a Vietnamese/Australian chef and restaurateur) cooking studio called Grain in Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon). It was a little serendipitous as to how l found this cooking school but l am so glad l did. It is a very classy and clean set up. Under the guidance of Tuan (head instructor), we not only learnt to make 5 dishes, but gained valuable insights into techniques and ingredients. I never knew that fish sauce originated from Greece!! Go Greeks!!!!
A good fish sauce is the key to making a fabulous tasting dish. Choose a fish sauce with a dark amber colour and make sure that the type of fish indicated on the packaging are anchovies. Believe me, you can taste the difference!
Tuan called the dipping sauce the Vietnamese version of tomato sauce/ketchup. That is, you can use it in many dishes; rice paper rolls, over salads or with fried or chargrilled meat. It is that versatile!! I think that Nuoc Cham Mam encapsulates what Vietnam is all about; you put opposites together and somehow it works: the quiet tranquility of the country-side and the buzz of a million motorcycles; the soaring mountains of the north and the low flat terrain of the Mekong Delta; the rustic street food stalls with low plastic stools in front of Dolce & Gabbana stores.
Preparation Time: 30 mins Cook Time: 5 mins Marinating time: 30 mins
Makes: 25-27 patties
- 500 g (1 lb) pork mince (ground pork)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp red Asian shallots (finely chopped) (Note 1)
- 3 tbsp spring onions (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp garlic (grated or finely chopped)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham)
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 tbsp white vinegar
- 125 ml warm water
- 2 tbsp castor sugar or to taste
- 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- 1 thinly sliced red chilli (Note 2)
- 2 tbsp lime juice (can be substituted with lemon juice)
- Place all the pork patty ingredients, except the oil, in a bowl. Mix well. Oil your hands and pinch off small portions of the mixture (about the size of a walnut). Roll into balls and place on a tray. Press down each patty to flatten a little. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Place the vegetable oil in a medium size saucepan. Cook the patties over medium heat (not high as you don’t them to burn) for 3 minutes on one side and 2 on the other. Remove from the pan and place on a serving dish. (Note 3)
- For the dipping sauce, place 1 tbsp of sugar, warm water, white vinegar, fish sauce and lime juice in a small bowl. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Add the remainder of the sugar in small increments until you like how it tastes. Add the garlic and sliced chilli.
- Serve the patties with the dipping sauce.
- It is important that the spring onions, Asian shallots and garlic are very finely chopped. If they are too big, the patties may not hold together.
- I tend to remove the seeds from the red chilli as members of my family don’t like it too hot.
- Very little oil is used to cook the patties. You may need to add just a touch more oil if you cook the patties in batches, but generally a tablespoon is sufficient.
Vietnam is exotic, compelling and is where you’ll find one of the healthiest and freshest cuisines in the world. Just watch out for those motorcycles!!!