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Traditionally, chả lụa is made of lean pork, potato starch, and nước mắm (fish sauce). The pork has to be pounded until it becomes pasty; it cannot be chopped or ground as the meat would still be fibrous, dry, and crumbly. Near the end of the pounding period a few spoonfuls of nước mắm are added to the meat for flavour, but salt, ground black pepper, and sugar can also be added. The meat is now called giò sống, meaning "raw sausage," and can be used in other dishes as well.
The mixture is then wrapped tightly in banana leaves into a cylindrical shape and boiled. If the banana leaf is not wrapped tightly and water leaks inside while it is being boiled, the sausage will be ruined. The sausage has to be submerged vertically into boiling water, and typically for a 1 kg sausage it takes an hour to cook. When making chả lụa by hand, a common way to tell if it is well cooked is to throw the sausage onto a hard surface; if it bounces, the sausage is good.
The most well-known chả lụa comes from the village Ước Lễ, Thanh Oai, province Hà Tây, northern Vietnam, where people pride themselves as professional chả lụa makers. When cookingchả lụa, the villagers of Ước Lễ light a stick of incense with the length equal to the ...