Gourmandistan

Rabbit nems resurrect thoughts of France, sausage making

Rabbit nems

Gourmandistan has had an idea of recreating rabbit nems in our imaginary fiefdom almost since the time we discovered them in Normandy a couple of years ago. As we recall, the rice paper-wrapped treats we bought from a Caen market lapin vendor were filled with ground rabbit and subtle spices. We’d buy the uncooked rolls along with some containers of sauce, go home and fry them, and have a wonderful and easy lunch. While those particular nems seemed a bit less Asian than other Vietnamese rolls we’ve enjoyed in France, the lovely texture and taste stayed with us.

Rabbit nems

We recently purchased a rabbit from a local farmer and some rice paper wrappers from an Asian grocery, and set about to try to recreate the nems. This led to Steve hauling out his meat grinder for the first time in many, many years. 

Steve bought the grinding and sausage making attachments for our ancient KitchenAid stand mixer ages ago. He begged casings from a butcher and had some success with sausages. Michelle fondly remembers a wild duck version. But Steve’s difficulty detecting silverskin, tendon and the occasional bit of buckshot made sausage making seem too much of a hassle. The KitchenAid parts were put in a plastic bag, stuck in a cabinet and not seen again until Michelle suggested that food processor-ground rabbit might have the wrong texture. It turns out that several years of serious cooking, food blogging and an instructive trip to Italy have vastly improved Steve’s butchering skills. Taking care to carve off only clean chunks of meat (he used the rest of the carcass to make a nice batch of stock) and contributing a bit of his homemade lard, Steve easily produced about a pound of freshly-ground rabbit meat.

Rabbit nems

We can’t say our rabbit nems tasted exactly like the ones we enjoyed in France, but they did bring back some fond memories of market snacks. Even better, Steve’s success with grinding meat means he’s now thinking about sausage again—which bodes well for future blog posts!

RABBIT NEMS

  • Servings: about 12 rolls
  • Print

  • 1 lb. ground rabbit (that is what a 3-1/2 lb. rabbit yielded) mixed with 1 TB of lard or substitute ground pork
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 tsp. + 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Approx. 12 rice paper wrappers or bánh tráng (we used Three Ladies Brand “Special Rice Paper for Frying”)
  • 2-1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Curly lettuce leaves for wrapping

Mix meat, scallions, carrots, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, pepper and eggs together in a large bowl. Refrigerate.

In a large skillet (large enough to provide plenty of room to dip the wrappers), mix together water, 1 teaspoon sugar and rice vinegar.

Dip a dry wrapper into the water. Turn a few times, for a minute or so, until the wrapper is nearly fully saturated (close to what the wrapper of a summer roll would be). Lay the wrapper on a plate.

Make a log of approximately 2 tablespoons of filling, about 4″ long.  Place about an inch from the bottom of the wrapper. Fold the bottom end of the wrapper over the filling. Then, fold both sides in. And, finally, roll the wrapper tightly.

Continue with remaining wrappers and filling.

Deep fry in 350° F oil, turning until nicely browned.  Drain on a drying rack or on paper towels.

Use scissors to cut each roll into thirds.  Serve with curly lettuce for wrapping and sauce for dipping.

SAUCE FOR NEMS

  • Servings: about 1 cup
  • Print

  • 2 TB fish sauce
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 2 TB rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • handful of shredded carrots
  • 2 dried Thai bird peppers, chopped
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • splash of sweet chili sauce for color

Mix all ingredients together in a jar. Shake.

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40 comments

  1. I haven’t ground any meat myself in ages. My last restaurant gig (over 6 years ago) required me to grind beef almost daily and I haven’t mustered up the energy since. But luckily my current job has all sorts of tasty ground meats available — including rabbit! — so I have no excuses. May need to add these delightful looking bundles of joy to my list of things to make this year. =)

    • Oh, lord, I don’t blame you. We are lucky to have some rabbit farmers here, but nobody seems to have gotten into the ground stuff. Which is funny, given that I’m sure that grinding up the extra parts is what caused that French guy to do the ready-to-fry nems!

  2. This is the second time today I’ve commented I don’t cook game meats enough. I regularly mince my own meat with a hand turned mincer which clamps to the bench. There is something satisfying about the whole procedure. Love the sound of this recipe, I’ll try it soon…

  3. I love rabbit! French + Vietnam = YUM! How did Steve cope with all the bones when preparing the rabbit to mince? I have to meditate before I start deboning one … for me it’s a long drawn out process, but then I am a complete amateur.

    • Heavens, don’t ask me. I would have failed biology as I loathed the dissecting. But, luckily, I had a sweet partner who took pity on me and did it all himself. (Ah, to be 16 or so again…) But I agree: rabbit is a delicious meat if handled correctly.

    • I know! Obviously they have good Vietnamese food all over France, but we’ve always wondered why the best stuff we found was in Normandy. (Though, I must admit, the guy selling the rabbit nems was French, not Vietnamese.)

  4. Wow, Michelle. This is really amazing. I love what you did with a traditional French-inspired rabbit. I really want to cook more with rabbit. The only times I do so are on a farm. I love that you kind of wanted duck too. These are really my two favorite foods. You guys really are amazing. You put out wonderful dishes every time. Thank you for this recipe!

    • Thanks, Angelica! I have always assumed that might just be what the French call spring rolls, Imperial rolls, etc.? We need a Vietnamese reader to chime in as I really don’t know why they’re called that.

    • Thanks so much, Teresa! It’s funny how much we’ve talked about these since we were last in Normandy in 2012. Can’t believe it took us so long to try to recreate them at home.

  5. My mouth is literally watering looking at this recipe. I have an old hand cranked grinder from my mother and this gives me an incentive to use it. You’ve been very prolific these past couple of months! Sorry for not commenting lately; it’s been a hairy time.

    • Forgiven! It’s been crazy here, too. I worked all weekend and had to go out in terrible weather yesterday to finish and e-file an appellate brief. (I know you understand that, even if hardly anybody else does.) So, today I’m playing hooky and enjoying the kitchen. Get out that grinder!

  6. What type of casing and lard did you use? Pork? You have a plethora of amazing local, sustainable and tasty meats in your region. Both the duck and rabbit varieties sound amazing. Loved those travel memories, too. Simple flavors, fish sauce pumps it up a notch… this recipe may be enough to hurl me down the grinding attachment road. I’m always weary of sausages from the store!

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