Broken rice: The evolution of a classic Vietnamese dish

Published:  10:29 Wednesday - November 09, 2016

Broken rice: The evolution of a classic Vietnamese dish

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 writer and famous researcher, said that the broken rice is the popular dish of the working class in the Mekong Delta. WWhen 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, remain unchanged, Like normal rice, broken rice is boiled or steamed. The perfectly cooked broken rice is dry and should not be sticky. 


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 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 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.


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 the soaked in a mixture of vinegar, sugar and salt. 


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 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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