Vietnamese cuisine: 5 unique ways Vietnamese cook their rice

bamboo rice vietnamese food

Rice, or “cơm” in Vietnamese, is absolutely an indispensable part of Vietnamese cuisine, just like many other Asian countries. However, that does not mean rice is the same around Asia. Throughout the history, Vietnamese have created a wide range of ways to cook and serve their rice, base on the culture and ingredients of each local. Some you may not encounter anywhere else, some are just a wonderful elevation of normal types of rice dishes. Let’s discover the most popular 5 dishes of rice of Vietnam that likely to be on your favourite list.

1. Lam Rice – the specialty of Tay Bac

Vietnamese Lam rice in an “unusual” tubular shape.

Lam Rice is considered to be the one-of-the-kind dish of Vietnamese minority in the northwestern region.  It is considered as the food that represents this most natural and untouched area of Vietnam, because of its elegant taste of the cool streams and the fragrance of the borderless bamboo forests. Originally, Lam Rice was invented by the men who had to go on extremely long trips into the forest. Among their equipment, a bamboo pipe full of Lam Rice was their most valuable asset.

Bamboos with sticky rice inside on fire. Photo: VOV.

You may find it’s interesting in the unique way of cooking. Glutinous rice after cleaned and soaked in water for 6-8 hours will be put into bamboo tubes. The bamboo chosen should be fresh and young so that the new membrane inside the tube can wrap the rice, adding it a special flavour, fragrance and sweetness. Once it is done, the singed skin of the bamboo is removed, leaving a thin cover that can be peeled away easily when you eat. Each person appreciates Lam Rice in his own way. However, it is widely agreed that the rice tastes best with grilled chicken or grilled pork (which are also grilled in bamboo pipes) and especially with roasted sesame and salt. Blending fragrance of fresh bamboo, banana leaves, and sticky rice the gently sweet and salty flavour. Such a memorable experience!

2. Hoi An Chicken rice – Cơm gà Hội An

Rice Chicken - Com ga Hoi An - Vietnam

A typical dish of Hoi An chicken rice with yellow rice, shredded chicken herbs with pickled vegetables as a side dish. Photo: amthucsaigon.vn

Among all amazement an ancient town can bring you, the chicken rice dish of Hoi An is one thing make you want to come back to this beautiful town by Thu Bon river. Hoi An chicken rice is very simple. In it’s most bare form, the recipe includes only rice, chicken, sauce and pickled carrots. Boiled chicken is cut or torn into smaller slices, seasoned with spices like salt, pepper, chilli and Vietnamese coriander. Some even say those are the main factor that makes the dish savoury.

And the main character of the dish, the rice set is cooked with chicken broth, which is Vietnamese type of chicken with relatively less fat. A dash of fresh turmeric is usually add in to make it glossy yellow. The rice then put on a place as a layer to absorb all of the flavours.The full dish is served with sliced mint leaves and onions to add on to the taste of chicken and spices. And the famous chilli sauce is poured evenly over the dish to create the typical spicy taste of Central Vietnam cuisine.

Madam Buoi Rice Chicken - Com ga Ba Buoi - Hoi An - Vietnam

Ba Buoi Chicken Rice is one of the most popular places for Hoi An traditional chicken rice.

3. Sai Gon Broken Rice – Cơm tấm Sài Gòn

Com tam sai gon - sai gon broken rice - vietnamese food

This dish is not a very new one to tourists as it’s often mentioned as one of the main features of Saigon. Walk around Saigon streets, you can easily recognize signs that said Com tam and that has always been highly recommended by locals and in foreign guidebooks. Cơm tấm, or broken rice, is a Vietnamese dish made from rice with fractured rice grains. Tấm refers to the broken rice grains, while cơm refers to cooked rice.

When it comes to Com Tam, there is a huge range of side dishes. It is usually served with grilled pork, ribs or shredded, Vietnamese dish  (thinly shredded pork mixed with cooked and thinly shredded pork skin) over broken rice. But you can choose anything from prawn paste cake, steamed egg patty (trứng hấp), grilled prawns, and so on.

Com tam cha trung Broken rice Saigon steamed egg patty

Perhaps tourists are impressed the most with the steam egg patty. The steamed egg patty is made from a mixture of minced pork, mung bean noodles, wood ear mushrooms, and then a few mild seasonings like salt and pepper and fish sauce. The ingredients are mixed up together, steamed, and finally topped with a layer of egg yolk for frosting.

Typically, restaurants will serve this popular combination rice plate with various greens and pickled vegetables. It usually comes with a small bowl of sweet and sour nước chấm, as well as a small bowl of soup broth (canh) with garlic chives (to cleanse the throat). Nowadays, Cơm tấm is sometimes served with an omelette also.

4. Crispy rice cracker

com chay Vietnamese crispy rice crackers

Vietnamese Savory Crispy Rice Cracker, a.k.a. Cơm Cháy is a unique dish from the ancient capital of Vietnam as called nowadays Ninh Binh. It is a natural and simple dish but very yummy. Cơm Cháy is made from steamed rice sliced into flat round shapes. After drying, each slice of steamed rice is fried in hot oil pan until they turn yellow and crisp. On the outside, it has a beautiful golden color with covered with chopped chili, green onion and dried pork floss.

To make a good dish, choosing ingredients, especially rice, is very important. Rice to make this dish is a “Huong” glutinous rice which means aroma. This particular type of rice has pure and round grains helping the dish get extra flavour. The dish is originally served with goat meat and a type of Ninh Binh wine. Undoubtedly, Cơm Cháy is a perfect combination of the crispness of yellow burned rice, greasy taste of meat and the freshness of vegetables. One bite invites another, it will be a perfect snack for a weekend afternoon.

5. Coconut rice – a brilliant creation of Ben Tre people

vietnamese coconut rice

Ben Tre Province in the Mekong Delta is the homeland of coconut. Locals in Ben Tre have created the unique Coconut rice dish. With a Siamese coconut, moderately mature one will be best, you can make use of every part of it. The main twist of the dish is to use coconut water to cook the rice. A strong savour harmonized with sweetness and a rather fatty flavour that you can not resist. Steaming in a pot makes the aroma and the sweetness embedded in each grain of rice.

The rice then turns in to slightly pale yellow colour due to the oil from coconut rice. The white copra part is sometimes chopped up into small pieces and mixed with rice. You can also use the shell as a pretty little bowl with a cover. As the aroma of coconut follows the smoke flying up, you will “have to” enjoy the dish will all of your senses.

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