Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cha Trung Hap: Vietnamese Steamed Egg Meatloaf


Whenever my family went out to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant, there were 2 things that I always had to have: cha gio (Vietnamese egg rolls) and cha trung hap (sort of like a steamed meatloaf comprised of mostly eggs and ground pork).  Typically, cha trung hap accompanies rice dishes, so my dad would order some rice dish with grilled meat and I’d steal his eggy/porky loaf.


One of my favorite things about cha trung hap is the use of wood ear fungus.  They’re easily found in their dried form in Asian markets and have a somewhat furry feel to them.  After reconstituting them in warm water, they become gelatinous but with a bit of crunch.  I liken them to the cartilage that’s found in a pig’s ear.  They taste pretty bland, but it’s all about the gelatinous and crunchy texture that it brings to the plate.


In addition to eggs, ground pork, and wood ear mushrooms, green onions and glass noodles or rice vermicelli are typically thrown into the mix.  I’ve seen variations that include shredded carrot and shrimp, so I opted to include some fresh shrimp for my loaf.  All the ingredients are mixed together and topped with a couple egg yolks to give it a yellow finish.  Many places do something to give the top an orange finish.  I’m not sure what of the cultural or culinary significance of an orange top versus a yellow one, but it’s fairly common.


As I mentioned before, cha trung hap is more often than not served as an accompaniment to something else.  In this case, I chose a simple roast pork marinated in fish sauce, lime, and sugar.  The loaf is usually garnished with cilantro, which brightens and lightens the dish.  It balances out the inherit richness that comes with something that’s so eggy.


Cha trung hap:

  1. 30 g dried wood ear fungus + 30 g (1 bundle) rice vermicelli + warm water => soak
  2. 20 minutes => drain => slice wood ear fungus into strips
  3. 2  stalks scallion + 3 eggs + 2 egg whites + 225 g shrimp + 450 g ground pork + 2 tsp fish sauce + 1 tsp sugar + 1/2 tsp pepper + step #1 => mix => cooking vessel
  4. 2 egg yolks => top layer of mixture
  5. Steam, medium heat => 25 minutes
  6. Cilantro => garnish

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