Broken rice: The evolution of a classic Vietnamese dish

By Ngoi Sao/Mr. True   October 1, 2016 | 05:06 pm GMT+7

Born as a popular comfort food option among the working class in the south, the dish has gradually found its way to Vietnam's culinary hall of fame.

Son Nam, a famous writer and cultural researcher, said broken rice is the popular dish of the working class in the Mekong Delta. When these workers migrated to urban areas, they brought with them the dish and kept changing it. But the use of the small grains, which are actually fragments of rice grains broken by milling or during drying, remains unchanged. Like normal rice, broken rice is boiled or steamed. The perfectly cooked broken rice is dry and should not be sticky.

Son Nam, a famous writer and cultural researcher, said broken rice is the popular dish of the working class in the Mekong Delta. When these workers migrated to urban areas, they brought with them the dish and kept changing it. But the use of the small grains, which are actually fragments of rice grains broken by milling or during drying, remains unchanged. Like normal rice, broken rice is boiled or steamed. The perfectly cooked broken rice is dry and should not be sticky.

An original dish of broken rice consisted of only cooked rice, scallion-in- liquid-fat sauce, sliced pig skin with ground roasted rice, grilled pork is only available to well-heeled families.

Traditionally a serving only consisted of rice, scallion oil garnish and shredded pork skin. The now-famous Vietnamese pork chop was only available in well-heeled families.

Through time, the dish evolves with living standard. Instead of pig skin only, cookers add sliced pork with being scared that not may can afford it.

Through time, the dish has evolved with higher living standards. Instead of pig skin, southerners then added shredded pork.

The sauce is the spirit of the dish.  Many broken rice places were broke just because of its failure in making a decent sauce. The sauce served with the dish is savory with refined sugar, coconut water and premium fish sauce. Chopped garlic and chili are added to the eaterss favor.

The sauce is the spirit of the dish. Many broken rice places were shunned just because they failed to create a decent sauce. The sauce served with the dish is savory thanks to refined sugar, premium fish sauce and sometimes a little bit of pineapple juice. Garlic and chili are also added.

Besides sauce, pickle is also a side dish that raise the main. The pickle of the south is usually made of lotus stem, mooli and carrot. Cut into shapes of choice, the vegetables are then soaked in vinegar mix with sugar and salt.

Pickles are a mainstay of the dish. Southern pickles are usually made of lotus stem, daikon radish and carrot. Cut into shapes of choice, the vegetables are then soaked in a mixture of vinegar, sugar and salt.

The pickles can be served on the same dish with rice and pork, or served with sauce. Its crunch and sourness reduce the fattiness of the meat.

The pickles can be served as toppings on the rice, or served together with the sauce. The crunchiness and sourness help enhance the flavors and make the dish less oily.

Fried eggs and chicken since long has become a favored choice. However, com tam suon bi cha (broken rice with grilled rib, pig skin and minced pork) is still the most ordered.

Fried eggs and chicken have become favorite pairings with broken rice. However, “com tam suon bi cha” (broken rice with pork chop, pig skin and egg meatloaf) is still the favorite oldtimer.

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