The unexplainable charm of Da Nang’s nem lui

Nem lui, or pork skewers grilled over charcoal, exude a delectable aroma that food lovers cannot resist.

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If Hanoi is famous for nem chua ran (fried fermented pork) and coastal city Nha Trang is known for its nem nuong (grilled rolls), Da Nang takes great pride in its nem lui (pork skewers grilled over charcoal).

Although sharing the name “nem,” these dishes have distinct flavors and ways of serving.

The unexplainable charm of Da Nang’s nem lui
Da Nang’s pork skewers grilled over charcoal is one of the city’s most iconic dishes. Photo: Now

Da Nang’s pork skewers grilled over charcoal has won the heart of food lovers from all corners with its rich, unique umami flavor.

The main ingredients for nem lui are simply pork and a variety of seasonings. Despite this, preparing nem lui is a painstaking process.

To make nem lui, the chef must choose fresh pork that has lean meat, fat and skin, then grind the meat finely and mix with seasonings following a certain ratio.

Marinating nem lui challenges the chef’s workmanship. In the hands of careless and unskilled chefs, the signature flavor of nem lui can be lost.

The unexplainable charm of Da Nang’s nem lui
Nem lui grilled over charcoal exudes an aroma that food lovers cannot resist. Photo: Travelmag

After marinating, the chef meticulously pastes the ground pork onto a small stick or lemongrass to enhance the flavor of the dish.

Minh, the owner of a nem lui restaurant in Da Nang, believed the most difficult part in making nem lui is grilling. Nem lui tastes the best when it is grilled over charcoal.

When grilling, the chef must be careful so the pork is cooked thoroughly. In the worst-case scenario, the final product can be cooked on the outside but raw inside.

The unexplainable charm of Da Nang’s nem lui
Fresh herbs are an irreplacable side dish for nem lui. Photo: Travelmag

“The chef must maintain a medium fire and turn nem lui sticks evenly so they are not burned. Standard nem lụi must be aromatic and golden brown,” said Minh.

In addition to the main dish, an appetizing dipping sauce and fresh herbs on the side are two key elements of the dish.

While each restaurant in Da Nang has its own recipe for the sauce, the basic ingredients include pig liver, peanut and seasonings. When cooked together, these ingredients can produce a thick, brown, delectable dipping sauce that elevates the flavors of nem lui.

The unexplainable charm of Da Nang’s nem lui
The dipping sauce, one of nem lui’s key elements. Photo: Jamja

Making nem lui might take time and effort, but enjoying it is fun and simple. Many food fanatics love to wrap nem lui and fresh herbs in rice papers, then splurge them into the sauce.

When eating, people can feel the distinct umami flavor of the grilled nem lui adorned by a nutty, rich dipping sauce and refreshing fresh herbs. Everything comes together, leaving a perfect balance of flavors on the tongue.

Some people enjoy dipping nem lui directly into the sauce without adding herbs or rice papers to savor the dish in its purest form.

The unexplainable charm of Da Nang’s nem lui
All the dish’s flavors are wrapped in a big roll. Photo: Dantri

Small sticks of nem lui grilled over charcoal exude an unmistakable aroma that passersby cannot resist.

Cost only VND 5,000 to 8,000/stick, nem lui has become a popular dish that wins the heart of food lovers in Da Nang.

My Doanh, a fan of Da Nang cuisine, said “Da Nang’s nem lui can be enjoyed in any season. There is nothing better than eating a hot, flavorful stick of nem lui with rich dipping sauce.”