Aug 21, 2012

Vietnamese chefs throw nothing away

Com tam
Com tam
From Threeland Travel's Blog - August 2012
“You're so lucky, you get to have com tam everyday,” an old friend of mine told me after I moved from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

May be having com tam everyday is a bit too much, but it is one of the most special flavors in southern Vietnam. It is a simple meal, and though it's become increasingly popular in extravagant Saigon, it remains cheaper than most food here.

Com tam is made from "broken rice," which is the grains of rice that have broken during processing and transport. Previously only eaten by very poor people or used as chicken feed, the smaller rice is now sold throughout the south as a cheap meal for everyone. It has also prompted a variety of upscale restaurants to add it to their menu, or even specialize in what might be called the Vietnamese "soul food'.

But com tam was first seen on the street as corner vendors fired up charcoal grills on the sidewalk and old ladies opened up cheap food stalls at local markets.

The most common com tam dish comes with a fried pork chop and an egg, sunny side up.

Garnishes include do chua, or pickled vegetables (usually carrots and parsnips, but sometimes also cucumbers and cabbage) and super-sweet fish sauce and chili -- sometimes also mixed with garlic -- that northerners and people from the central region sometimes have a hard time getting down because of all the sugar.

It is one of the city's most popular late-night foods.

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