Cha Lua Chay – Vegetarian Vietnamese “Ham”

Cha lua is a true Vietnamese dish that is made of pork. It is used as the meat portion of many dishes such as banh uot or cuon (white rice noodle sheets often seen at dim sum), banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) or xoi (sticky rice). It is a pork mixture, sort of like a sausage, that is wrapped in banana leaves steamed or boiled.

As you may  notice by now, my family and I are huge fans of vegetarian food – probably because Vietnamese food offer so many delicious options for it. This is a delicious recipe for a vegetarian (and vegan) version of cha lua. Vegetarian cha lua is made in different ways, but I truly believe my grandmother’s recipe is the best. This cha lua can be saved for up to quite some time in the fridge (probably a month and a half). Some of my family’s favorite ways to eat is with bun, cha gio chay and nuoc mam (rice vermicelli, vegetarian egg rolls and fish sauce) topped with fresh mint, lettuce and chopped peanuts, or wrapped as a spring roll with egg rolls and tofu dipped in a peanut sauce. We also love to serve it plain with rice, too! Be creative and see how you can serve it!

Cha Lua Chay – Vegetarian Vietnamese “Ham”


  • ~4 Tbsp of diced leeks
  • Frozen Bean Curd Sheets – cut in half (with scissors)
  • Banana Leaves
  • Mushroom powder
  • Olive oil/Salt/Pepper
  • Aluminum foil & string


1. In a large pot, salt water generously and bring to boil.

2. While waiting,  saute leeks on medium-low heat until golden brown.

3. When water is boiling, place as many bean curd sheets in as possible and cook for 2-3 minutes. Scoop out with a mesh net or slotted spoon and drain. Repeat until all sheets are cooked.

4. Spread out some bean sheets (grab about a small pinch thick) on 3 sheets of banana leaf. Don’t worry if the bean sheets are completely flat or smooth!

5. Spoon and spread the leeks over the sheets. Sprinkle pepper and 2 big pinches of mushroom powder.

6. Fold bean curd in half (like a card) and spread another pinch of mushroom powder and rub on this side, too.

6. Start to roll up the bean curd with the banana leaf. Fold in the ends like a present or package. ***Try to keep it as tight as possible!

7. Wrap in aluminum and tie it tightly with string….

Once lengthwise

Twice around the width

8. Steam for 30 minutes. Serve or store away in refrigerator (never freezer!). May last up to 1 1/2 months.

Happy cooking!!


About cookingvivi

Part time eye doctor, occasional world traveler, full time food lover
This entry was posted in Side Dish, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cha Lua Chay – Vegetarian Vietnamese “Ham”

  1. valerie says:

    hi, i would just like to thank you for sharing the simplicity of making this. i have been wondering how to do so and it is alot easier than i thought it would be. i have seen been curd sheets at the market before – in the freezer section and in the dried foods section. is it okay if we use either one? if yes, then which would you recommend using?
    thank you for your reply!

    • cookingvivi says:

      Hi Valerie!

      I’m so glad people are learning and realize how easy it can be to make delicious food! I asked my grandmother (originator of the recipe), and she said to definitely use the freezer bean curd sheets. The dry ones do not give the right texture for the cha lua. Great question and I learned something from it too! (usually I just grab exactly whatever my grandmother asks)


  2. H Anh says:

    I have to admit you make the recipe sound more simpler than I can explain it. Great job

  3. H Anh says:

    I have mke it into square like the Vietnamese banh Chung also

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