A Food Lover's Travel Guide to the Best of Vietnamese Food

Guide to Vietnamese Chả/Giò

A bowl of bun moc with cha lua in it.

Bun Moc with chunks of cha lua.

In Vietnam, chả, or giò in the north, can be found floating in soups, tucked in sandwiches, rolled in spring rolls, alongside noodles or rice, and even in vegetarian dishes. It is considered healthy and a great source of protein, as it’s made almost entirely from lean cuts of meat. There are many different kinds of cha, but almost all of them are made by pounding meat until it’s a thick silky paste, then forming it into a loaf and cooking it. Steaming is the most popular method of cooking it, specifically steaming it in layers of very tightly sealed banana leaf. The leaf adds some flavours and is also a nice container to hold it in once it's done cooking. The meat can be seasoned with a variety of flavors, but the most popular are black pepper, garlic, mushrooms, shallots, and of course the ever-popular fish sauce.

Sometimes, to avoid confusion between the northern and southern words, it will be called chả giò. Gio basically means sausage in Vietnamese. The following list describes some of the varieties that I’ve come across. I’ve used the southern word, but if you want to know what it’s called in the north just substitute the word cha for gio. It’s that simple.

Chả Lụa

This is the most popular kind of chả. Lụa means silk in Vietnamese. It’s made with very lean cuts of pork, potato or tapioca starch, and usually contains some garlic and fish sauce. The meat is tightly sealed in a banana leaf and steamed.


  • Chả Huế - Hue’s extra flavorful version. Contains more garlic and whole peppercorns.
  • Cha Chien – Instead of being steamed in a banana leaf, it’s fried in oil. It’s a bit chewier and the oil changes the taste of the cha’s exterior. Don’t expect it to be crispy on the outside though.
  • Chả Bì - basically, chả lụa with shredded pork floss in it. It adds an extra flavour and texture.

What you'll find it in:

More cha lua dishes and recipes

bun xao chay or vegetarian stir-fried noodles

Bun Xao Chay with a slice of cha lua.

Chả Bò

Made with beef instead of pork. The cut can vary, but it’s always very lean. Usually, more seasoning is used than in the pork version. These may include lemongrass, garlic, peppercorns, chili, shallot, and coconut milk. It can be steamed or fried (cha bo chien).

What you'll find it in:

Chả Cá

Made with fish, usually an oily fish like catfish, tilapia, or snakehead fish. The loaf is streamed or pan fried.


  • You may find cha ca that’s named after the area the fish was caught. For example, cha ca Nha Trang is made with fish from Nha Trang, a coastal city in the south central part of Vietnam.

What you'll find it in:

  • Banh canh cha ca – fishcake soup
  • Bun cha ca – noodle soup with fishcake
  • Chả cá thăng long – turmeric fish with dill
  • Banh mi cha ca nong – hot fried fish sandwich

Chả Chay

The vegetarian version. It’s made from tofu along with a variety of flavorful herbs and spices. I know if doesn’t sound like much, but you’ll be surprised how tasty it can be.

What you'll find it in:

  • Usually it’ll be served at a vegetarian or chay restaurant alongside some rice and a pile of vegetables.

Chả Gà

Made with chicken. Probably the least popular on the list. Sometimes made with mushrooms. They are often made smaller and fried up, almost like a chicken nugget.

What you'll find it in:

  • Banh mi cha ga – chicken sandwich
  • On it’s own served with sweet chili sauce.