Are you wondering what cha lua is in Vietnamese cuisine? I'm going to talk all about this ingredient and how it is used in Vietnamese dishes. I'll also talk about where you can find cha lua near you.
If you have ever had cha lua, a Vietnamese ham pork roll, you probably had it inside a banh mi sandwich, banh uot, and even bun bo hue. Cha lua is delicious and provides a great flavor texture to most dishes.
All About Vietnamese Cha Lua
Cha lua (also commonly known as gio lua) is a Vietnamese ham and sausage. It is served during Tet, which is a time for families to gather together to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Just like banh tet, cha lua is often served during this holiday as an offering to ancestors that have passed.
However, cha lua is not just for tet. Cha lua can be served year around with a multitude of Vietnamese dishes. Cha lua pretty much goes well with anything from the cuisines listed previously, as well as red sticky rice, vermicelli noodles and soups, and it can be served on it's down with nuoc mam as a dipping sauce.
How is Cha Lua pronounced?
Cha lua is pronounced with the cha as in "cha cha cha" and lua as in "loo-ah".
What is inside Vietnamese Cha Lua?
Common recipes for Vietnamese cha lua include two main ingredients: fish sauce and lean pork. It's generally wrapped in banana leaves in order to release and impart its subtle and sweet flavor. The banana leaf is discarded prior to eating. Often, if you purchase premade ham rolls, aluminum foil will be wrapped around the outside of the banana leaf retain more flavor.
Homemade variations of this recipe often includes potato/corn starch, sugar, salt, black peppers, garlic, chicken powder, and baking powder (Alsa brand).
Other Names for Vietnamese Ham Pork Roll
Vietnamese pork rolls go my many monikers, including in Vietnamese. I'm going to break down the differences so you can get the right kind.
It would be sad if you picked up cha lua with a bunch of peppercorns (like I have) and realized you got the wrong kind!
- chả bì - containing shredded pork skin along with typical chả lụa ingredients, then steamed
- chả bò - beef sausage with herbs
- chả chiên - where the entire sausage is deep-fried (instead of steamed, omitting the banana leaf wrap)
- chả huế - contains whole black peppercorns and more garlic and then steamed
- chả quế - sausage with seasoned with powdered cinnamon, then fried, another variety of chả chiên. In Northern Vietnam, chả almost exclusively refers to this variant
Is Vietnamese Cha Lua healthy?
Cha lua is an excellent source of protein and low in sugar.
Calories in Cha Lua
Per serving, Vietnamese Cha Lua (ham sausage) has 230 calories with 7 grams of fat.
Common Allergens in Cha Lua
You should not eat cha lua if you have gluten, fish, meat, corn, or soy allergies.
Like any other foods, cha lua has added sugar, is high in saturated fat, and has added salt.
How is Vietnamese Cha Lua made?
Cha lua is made by pounding the pork until it becomes pasty without grinding or chopping. Grinding and chopping the pork would make the meat crumbly, dried out, and fibrous. By pounding the pork, it provides the texture to make the ham roll and allow the melding of all the other ingredients, especially fish sauce, to be absorbed. The meat before steaming is called gio song, which means raw sausage. Often, gio song can be used in other dishes (including making pork meatballs).
The cha lua pork mixture is then wrapped in banana leaves to not only form the sausage roll, but allow it to absorb the sweetness of the banana leaves. Once wrapped and tied with a kitchen string, the cha lua is then boiled (for 60 minutes) or steamed (for 30 minutes) to perfection.
How long can cha lua last?
Cha lua can last at room temperature for about a week if made homemade. However, if you purchase a premade roll, it can be stored frozen for 3-4 weeks.
Here's another version of what this ham roll looks like:
Where to buy Vietnamese Cha Lua?
You can buy cha lua in most Asian grocery stores. They come in pre-made rolls that don't need to be cooked. Generally, fresh sausage and ham rolls are gifted from family and friends. If you don't have friends that can provide a tremendous gift of homemade cha lua, the premade cha lua rolls are very delicious and full of flavor, so I often don't make it myself at home.
Brands I Recommend for Vietnamese Pork Rolls
If you want to buy premade cha lua from an Asian grocery store, the following brands are Viet Hung that is in the faux banana leaf packaging or Dragon Wagon which is in the aluminum foil.
A great tip: Please read the version that you are getting. Refer to the different variations above. If you are wanting plain cha lua, make sure you do not get one with peppercorns (especially if you are serving this to kids). This is the kind I usually buy when the ones in the real banana wrap are not available:
Cha Lua by Viet Hung
Cha Lua by Dragon Wagon
How much does a Vietnamese ham roll of cha lua coast?
A Vietnamese pork roll typically costs about $5 per roll at your local Asian grocer.
How is Vietnamese Pork Roll Served?
Vietnamese cha lua can be served fresh or fried. It is often served as an ingredient topped or inside of a dish. Here are some examples of how Vietnamese Pork Roll is served.
Popular Vietnamese Dishes with Cha Lua
Banh Mi is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich made with a baguette and filler ingredients including pickled vegetables. Vietnamese pork roll is added fresh as a filer in this sandwich.
Bun Bo Hue
This is a spicy noodle Vietnamese soup dish that is undeniably good. Often, beef brisket along with cha lua is often topped on this flavorful soup. This is a simple bun bo hue recipe that you can make right at home!
Banh Uot or Banh Cuon
Savory Vietnamese Fried Rice
Vietnamese fried rice often includes Chinese sausage, chicken, as well as cha lua included along with vegetables like carrots and peas.
Bun bi is a delicious vermicelli noodle with shredded pork skin and pork. Added cha lua takes this dish over the top in delicious protein! Here is an easy recipe for authentic Vietnamese bun bi.
Other Dishes with Vietnamese Cha Lua
- Crab soup
- Vietnamese fresh spring rolls (non-traditional variation)
- Sushi (not authentic)
- Vietnamese Banh Mi with Do Chua and Pate
Cha lua is a very versatile ham sausage that is an important foundational block of many dishes. While some may consider it as a supporting actor in a Vietnamese dish, it is often the leading character despite it's unassuming physical appearance.
Other Vietnamese Dish Comparisons You May Love
You may also love Vietnamese caramelized Pork Ribs. Below are some other Vietnamese dish comparisons you might want to learn about as you explore your culinary skills in Vietnamese cuisine!
- Difference between Chinese Food and Vietnamese Food
- Banh Tet versus Banh Chung Difference
- Banh Cuon versus Banh Uot Difference
- Vietnamese Che Chuoi - Banana Pudding in Tapioca Coconut Milk and Tapioca Pearls