[Blog update 6 May 2011 - Thanks to a blog comment from Chuynh of lovingpho I now know the actual name for this dish - it's called "nem" not "nam". I always have trouble finding the correct English translation for the pronunciation of dishes]
I remember my mum and aunty making these morsels of pork goodness all the time when I was a kid. I loved eating them on their own or sliced in a sandwich or roll. We call it ‘nam’ in Vietnamese, I’m not sure what that translates into English or if there is an English name for this dish. It’s basically chopped up ham with a gelatinise texture containing a balance of sweet and sour tastes, hits of garlic, and heat from peppercorns and chilli. The method of preparation allows the pork to be preserved and consumed over a week or two so I think that this puts in the vein of charcuterie except that store bought ham is used, the kind used for sandwiches in your school lunchbox. So it’s not very fancy, I think that buying this ham is a cheats way of preparing a quick snack and this is what mums do. Mums are good at finding shortcuts to preparing delicious food.
I think that you could prepare this in a different way from scratch where you cure your own ham instead of getting the store bought variety. After my Mondo cooking class on charcuterie I would be keen to try this one day. But here I present to you how I my mum makes it and how I have always consumed it.
• 1 kg ham shoulder, finely diced
• ½ kg shredded pork skin, washed and finely diced
The only place that I know of where you can buy shredded pork skin is at Ton Sian Groceries (155 Palmerston Street, North Perth). This shredded pork is used to prepare bì (mixture of thinly shredded pork and thinly shredded pork skin tossed with powdered toasted rice/garlic) which is usually served with the dish Cơm tấm, a popular Vietnamese broken rice dish with grilled pork. The pork skin won’t be on display to buy, you’ll have to ask the shop owner and he’ll get you some from out the back.
• ~ 1.5 whole garlic bulbs (around 20 cloves), finely diced
(can add more garlic if desired)
• ~ ¾ cup sugar
• 1 ¼ cup rice vinegar
• ~ 1-2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
• slices of fresh chilli
(amount of peppercorns and chilli added depends on desired hotness)
Combine the rice vinegar and sugar together into a large pot and simmer together until the sugar dissolves. Add in garlic and pork skin, stir together to combine, then add in ham.
Simmer for around 10-15 minutes, stirring continuously to combine all the ingredients together (the pork skin will liquefy). While stirring, taste for flavour, there should be a balance of sweet and sour, can add more sugar or rice vinegar as desired.
Then transfer the ham mixture into a large bowl to cool for around15-20 minutes. Add in whole black peppercorns and stir to combine into ham mixture.
Place spoonfuls of the ham mixture onto pieces of foil, top with slices of fresh cut chilli, wrap up and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until set (the pork skin will solidify the pieces of ham). *Alternatively, the ham mixture can be spooned into a container to 1inch thickness, topped with chilli, refrigerated and then cut into slices.
Eat pieces whole or cut into thinner slices.