Vietnamese Broken Rice or Cơm Tấm, is a popular dish made from rice with fractured rice grains. Vietnamese Broken Rice (Cơm Tấm) refers to the broken rice grains, while com refers to cooked rice. Also known as Cơm Tấm Sài Gòn as it is particularly served in southern Vietnam, Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.
Why is the broken rice???
In its early days, Com Tam was a popular dish among poor rice farmers in the Mekong Delta due to their economic circumstances.During bad rice seasons, these people didn’t have enough good rice to sell, so they used broken rice to cook. Broken rice is fragments of rice grains broken during the handling processes and was regarded as inferior rice at the time. Broken rice was used solely because it was readily available in the farmers’ houses and could fill their stomachs for a long time.
It is usually served with suon, (grilled marinated pork chops) plus bì (thinly shredded pork mixed with cooked and thinly shredded pork skin) over broken rice. The rice and meat are served with finely sliced cucumber, tomato and pickled vegetables, along with a cha trung hap (prawn paste cake also known as steamed pork and egg custard or pork meatloaf with egg), trung chien (fried egg), and grilled prawns.
It’s a dry dish; so typically, restaurants would serve this popular dish with a small bowl of nuoc cham (dipping sauce made from fermented fish sauce), as well as a small bowl of clear broth (canh) with garlic chives (to cleanse the throat).
A diner can customise his dish, for example, you can order com tam bì, which effectively leave out the cha trung egg meatloaf.
There are many other variations of this food using different components. For example, one variation may include grilled pork and egg while another may have the pork but no egg. Or one may have shredded pork with pork skin while another may not.
The most complete version of Vietnamese Broken Rice (Cơm Tấm) includes broken rice, shredded pork with pork skin, pork chop, egg, cha trung meatloaf with a serving of vegetables and pickled carrot and daikon, with serving of nuoc cham sauce on the side.
This type of rice is named after the process, which created it; left over broken pieces of rice that Vietnamese rice farmers couldn’t sell, so they ate it themselves. It is very traditional and has a great texture wise, and probably not as scented as long grain jasmine rice.