Local flavor

Com tam, a signature dish of Sai Gon

Com tam (broken rice) is a favorite and popular dish for both Vietnamese people and foreign visitors to Ho Chi Minh City.
The Saigonese take broken rice grains left over from the traditional drying and milling process to cook the dish. Traditionally, com tam is cooked in a ceramic or iron pot over a wood fire. However, people now use water-proof autoclaves to cook com tam. Broken rice grains are soaked in water for several hours and then put into the water-proof autoclave to cook.

A plate of com tam consists of broken rice and suon nuong (marinated grilled pork chops), cha trung (a steamed pork and egg custard), crispy sliced onion, mint and spring onions. It is served with pickled vegetables or sliced cucumber and tomato and a dipping sauce mixed with chopped chili and garlic.

A plate of tasty com tam

Suon nuong and cha trung decide the taste of com tam. Pork chops are marinated in honey, salt, fish sauce, oyster oil, pepper, sliced garlic, sesame oil and smashed fried onion and then grilled until their colors turns all brownish yellow. Cha trung is the steamed mixture of ground pork with vermicelli, wood ear, fried onion, and eggs.

In the past, com tam was a common meal for poor farmers, workers and students. However, it is now a signature dish of Ho Chi Minh City with the name “Com tam Sai Gon” (Saigon-style broken rice).

Recommended places for trying com tam:

- Ngon Restaurant at 18 Phan Boi Chau street, Cua Nam ward, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi.

- Tu Map broken rice at 812, Su Van Hanh street, ward 12, district 10, Ho Chi Minh City

By Khanh Long        Translated by Nguyen Tuoi

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