Claypot rice is a very popular dish that you shouldn’t miss when travelling to Vietnam. This rice is cooked in a special way and you will be surprised at its taste.
Rice in Vietnamese meals
In all Vietnamese houses, on a dining table, they place rice – the main dish at the heart with other dishes arranged surrounding it. The breakfast usually starts with rice cake wrapped in a banana leaf; a rice gruel or a noodle soup – the national dish pho, lunch often comes with rice vermicelli and something else (sea food or grilled meat) while dinner is also normally a repeat of the lunch dishes with rice as the most important dish.
In Vietnam, there are various types of rice. However, the jasmine rice (most rice commonly used by the upper class), usual white rice (eaten during every meal), sticky or sweet rice known as glutinous rice or xôi (steamed rice sweetened and mixed with condiments eaten for breakfast or as a dessert dish) and broken rice, converted to Com Tam by steaming (common in restaurants); each has its own uniqueness are the most popular varieties.
In Vietnam, claypot cooking is the best method of cooking rice. In the past, claypot was used by most home cooks (grandmother, mother, sister) to make rice dish for their family. These days, claypot is one of the most common cookware in this country. Not only rice, braised fishes, braised shrimp and braised pork are also cooked by claypot.
Com Nieu has been considered as the symbol of Vietnamese traditional cuisine, culture and history. Nowadays, while there are many cookware to cook rice faster and more conveniently such as: rice cooker, aluminum pot, cast-iron pot, etc, Com Nieu or rice cooked in claypot, which is only served in traditional restaurants at relatively high rate, has become specialty food to Vietnamese people and international tourists. Enjoying claypot rice in warm atmosphere, you can get the feeling like living in the past when there was no modern cookware and even electric.
Moreover, Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour has featured the Vietnamese house specialty – Claypot Rice (Cơm Niêu) with flying-rice show and shattered-crockery at Com Nieu Saigon restaurant. Not only popular among many travelers, it is Vietnamese Claypot Rice – this amazing food as well as the interesting flying-rice show performed by skillful waiters that is the reason why many come to Vietnam.
How to cook
Choosing good rice such as Nang Huong Rice (Gạo Tám, Gạo Nàng Hương), Tam Rice and good, high quality claypot which should be round is the very first step in the claypot rice’s cooking process. The straw fire must be medium and the amount of rice, water must be enough, not much, not less. While cooking, the rice has to be stirred a few times by a wooden chopstick which is bigger and longer than the one they use to eat. The claypot should be put on charcoal for about 20 minutes right after the water runs out. Then in order to make sure the rice is soft and flavorful, they use a pair of chopsticks to get the rice out of the claypot.
Not straw fire, the Royal Vietnamese Claypot Rice is cooked on charcoal which makes the rice more delicious and tastier. A longer cooking time can change the lowest layer at the bottom of the claypot into crispy and brown-yellow. To eat, to get the whole rice cake, you have to use a small hammer to smash the claypot, chopsticks or a spoon to divide it into some small pieces and cover them with simply mix of salt and sesame or mix of fish sauce and chopped green onion. This food is also called smashed rice or Com Dap. In some other restaurants, there are normally two waiters who serve Com Dap with juggling, smashing and throwing.
In Vietnam, the relationship between rice and claypot has existed for more than thousands of years. Vietnamese people from different types of social classes have considered them as their closest friends. Com Dap, Com Nieu are not kinds of foods but their soul. The best way to date back to the past in Vietnam is to taste the white, sticky and smelling rice. The rather simple but not easy to cook Com Dap, Com Nieu are well worth tasting while you are going on a trip in Saigon.
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