Search the luggage of a Thai person traveling abroad, and it’s highly likely that you’ll discover various items of food. Rolled in a newspaper or a piece of cloth, hidden deep in their bags, few Thai students will venture forth without a jar of their favorite roasted chili jam, while Thai housewives are often accompanied by their preferred brand of fermented shrimp paste. Both are probably carrying a couple of fermented Thai sausages as well.
You see, the intense and defined flavors of Thai cuisine – harmonically coming together to create a rich whole – are simply irreplaceable. Thai people will not survive happily without their beloved Thai food.
Naem is a fermented sausage made with pork, pork skins, cooked sticky rice (glutinous), fresh garlic, salt, sugar and bird’s eye chilies. The sausage is wrapped in banana leaves or synthetic casings, and fermented for 3-5 days at about 30 degrees (C) and 50% humidity. The fermentation process enables the growth of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, mostly lactobacilli, which accounts for the sourness of the sausage. The salt acts as an inhibitor – preventing the meat from going rotten, allowing the lactic acid bacteria and yeasts to feed on the rice and sugar, and fermenting the meat to perfection.
Naem is usually eaten with sliced ginger, chopped shallots, peanuts, bird’s eye chilies and spring onions. The fresh shallots give the dish a sweet heat that harmonizes well with the sourness of the naem.
Naem is also used in many recipes. Some of the more well-known include fried rice with naem, and naem fried with eggs.
Whether enjoyed on their own, or used in cooking, Thai sausages are packed with flavors!
So, for you – Thai people living abroad – and also for you – the lover of Thai food – I present this step-by-step tutorial on how to prepare a homemade fermented Thai sausage.
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- 1 kg pork meat (เนื้อหมู) lean, minced
- 350 g pork skin (หนังหมู)
- 25 cloves Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย)
- 20 g rock salt (เกลือสินเธาว์)
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar (น้ำตาลทราย)
- 1 cup cooked gelatinous rice (ข้าวเหนียวสุก) glutinous rice
- 40 fresh bird’s eye chili (kee noo suan) (พริกขี้หนูสวนสด)
- Trim and discard the fat from the pork, leaving only lean red meat.
- Mince the pork meat. I use an old-fashioned heavy duty manual meat grinder to do the job, and rarely rely on the butcher for help.
- Clean the pork skin by rubbing it vigorously with rough sea salt and white vinegar. Wash with running water. Repeat as necessary until the skin is clean and smooth.
- Cook the skin in boiling water until the skin become transparent and breaks easily when pinched. This can take up to 40 minutes.
- Shred the skin into thin strips of approximately 2 mm wide and 4 cm long.
- In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients: the pork meat, skin, garlic, rice, salt, sugar and MSG. Work everything with your hands until the mixture is well and evenly mixed.
- Depending on the size of the sausage you are making, arrange the pork mixture on one corner of a 20 x 20 cm banana leaf. Top with bird’s eye chilies, and roll as shown in the photo. If you do not have access to banana leaves, you may use plastic wraps to encase the sausage.
- Allow to ferment for 3 to 5 days at about 30 degrees C and 50% humidity.