Cơm tấm, or Vietnamese broken rice, is one of the signature dishes of South Vietnam — but it’s more than just an affordable plate of rice. It’s a dish with a deep history that begins with the farmers of the Mekong Delta.
The humble dish, known as broken rice because the grains are broken, is a symbol of the hardships during the country’s war and colonization up to its urbanization in the 20th century. It was commonly made into animal feed or rice flour and consumed by farmers or Vietnamese families on a tight budget. As urbanization developed, workers from the Mekong Delta began moving into cities, bringing along their cơm tấm recipes. The dish soon became a popular meal among laborers and students on a budget. Eventually, it became a beloved delicacy among many locals and tourists, with Vietnamese chefs creating fancier and more modern interpretations all around the country.
Serving Cơm Tấm
Traditionally, Cơm Tấm was served with only two ingredients: shredded pork skin & scallion oil. Today, there are countless variations, many of which are served with delicacies like grilled lemongrass pork chops, steamed egg cake, or fried shrimp paste. Plates of cơm tấm are also topped with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and sautéed green onions for balance. From being called “poor man’s food” to becoming a national delicacy popular among locals and tourists, cơm tấm has come a long way, just like the beautiful country from which it originates.
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