Nem Cho Huyen (Cho Huyen pork roll) has a one-of-a-kind flavour that reflects the distinctive culinary culture of the central province of Binh Dinh. Ngoc Phuong reports.
Binh Dinh, a central coastal province with a stunning stretch of beaches and mountain ranges as well as beautiful islands, is a seriously underrated tourist destination.
Like many other Vietnamese regions, the province has its own special cuisine and traditions that should be better known.
Dishes that deserve to be included on the tourist culinary trail include banh xeo tom nhay (fresh savoury pancakes with shrimp), banh hoi chao long (thin rice vermicelli with rice porridge), banh it la gai (glutinous rice cake covered with pinnate leaves) and bun song than (dual-thread vermicelli).
But it is nem (pork roll) that is the real standout dish.
A snack that can be eaten as finger food or as an appetiser to a larger meal, nem appears everywhere in Binh Dinh, from vendors' baskets to luxury banquets.
There are two kinds of nem: nem tuoi (grilled fresh pork roll) and nem chua (fermented pork roll). The latter can be grilled or eaten fresh after removing the leaf covering.
Traditional nem contains either grilled or fermented pork in addition to crispy greens, peanut sauce, garlic, chili and aromatic herbs. It usually comes wrapped and rolled in rice paper.
The mixture of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours make your mouth salivate with each bite.
The province's speciality, Nem Cho Huyen, can be found in Tuy Phuoc's District's Phuoc Loc Commune.
The nem is named after Huyen market, which is located near a row of restaurants lining the 2km-long Highway 19 section that traverses the commune.
The restaurants' barbecue fill the street air with the aroma of grilled pork, whetting your appetite even hours before dinner time.
In the cool weather of the final days of winter, the warmth from the grills is especially welcoming.
Finding the restaurants, Vo Thi Thanh Hoa, deputy chief of the commune, however, told me that Bon Lai restaurant might be the oldest nem maker and showed me how to get there.
Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bon Lai was small but airy.
Welcoming me was Nguyen thi An, 76, the owner.
"My father-in-law was the one who created nem Cho Huyen," she said. " I've been making nem since I was 17 when I married his son. Now my daughter-in-law is managing the restaurant."