To Vietnamese, rice is not simply considered a dish but the soul of a meal, no matter how delicious other dishes are, the meal will not be perfect without good rice. Depending on certain regions, Vietnamese people have different cooking methods and have given birth to various rice dishes but the 10 rice dishes below are labeled the best and most unique by both domestic and foreign gourmets.
Chicken rice in Hội An
In Hoi An, chicken rice is so savory and ubiquitous that everyone coming here are suggested to try. Hoi An people are proud of this dish and recognize it as one of their specialties. Chicken rice is simply rice cooked with chicken bouillon and a dash of turmeric – the reason why the rice in this dish is not white as usual but light yellow of chicken fat.
(Photo on Flickr by Nam Quach)
Though its recipe includes only rice, chicken, coating sauce and pickled vegetable, it is not that easy to cook an exemplary chicken rice plate. To get right flavor for this dish, a true Hoi An cook is required. Chicken in this dish is torn into small pieces and then mashed with crushed onions, Vietnamese coriander and the other spices. This mixing step is important and clearly shows the delicacy of the cooker.
Before being served to customers, the springy chicken pieces and fragrant rice are decorated with peppermint, shredded green papaya, and pickled vegetable.
Baby clam rice in Huế
Next is baby clam rice – a special delicacy of Hue. With a quite complex recipe, including crunchy cold rice, baby clams, fried pork fat, banana flower, fermented shrimp sauce, sliced star fruit and various spices, Hue’s baby clam rice brings customers all sweet, buttery, salty, sour, bitter and spicy at once.
(Photo on Flickr by Lyfifa)
The contrarian combination between the cold rice and the hot baby clam bouillon makes the dish a bit weird, meanwhile the pickled fruits and vegetables go perfectly with the fat of dried pork fat. It is tempting to enjoy a savory bow of Hue’s baby clam rice.
Tấm/Broken rice – Ho Chi Minh City
“Tấm” or broken rice is rice which has been broken into small pieces (2 or 3 pieces).
Like “Phở” in the North, broken rice is considered one of the most traditional foods in the South of Vietnam, people eat it any time: in the morning, afternoon or even at night and any where: from a pavement food shop to a luxury restaurant.
(Photo on Flickr by Kevin Ho)
The main ingredient of this dish is a very cheap kind of rice - broken rice, going with grilled pork, pork skin, egg and fish sauce, it touches all your senses.
“Cháy”/burned rice – Ninh Binh
Burned rice has been developed from a Chinese food since 100 years ago (late of 19th century) by a youngster named Hoc Thang Hoang. Thanks to this guy, the dish of burned rice is now famous not only in Ninh Binh but also the nation wide.
In order to make the rice burn to nice yellow, cookers have to be careful from the step of choosing aromatic sticky rice to cooking it (must be in steel pots) and finally drying it under the sun light from 2 to 3 days.
After drying, it is divided into round shape slices which then are soaked into hot cooking oil pan until turning golden. The golden burned rice slices are served with a special soup of pig’s heart and kidney.
Green crab rice in Phú Quốc
The name says it all, the main ingredients of this dish are cooked rice, green crab flesh, sliced onion, garlic, cooking oil and tomato sauce. Green crab flesh is sautéed with garlic and onion till brown, then add cooked rice and season with spices and tomato sauce.
Green crab rice is not only good looking but also high nutrient dish which you should try once coming to Phu Quoc island.
Coconut rice – Ben Tre
Coconut rice is made from sticky rice cooked on medium fire until the rice grains were broken down into tiny grains. Coconut milk then will be poured in with a little salt and let boiled to condense.
In olden days, this dish was only for farmers at leisure but to day it has become a dish for up-town people in luxury restaurants. Yet, whatever you are, once tasting it, you will not be able to forget it.
"Hell rice” - Huế
Too threatening for a dish’s name, but it is a delicious unique culinary art of Hue. According to Hue food expert – Hai Phan Ton, 7 colors displayed on a plate of “hell rice” represents the first 7 feet of the Buddha.
Aromatic rice, thin julienne bacon, Hue’s pork bologna, shrimp paste, Hue’s grilled spring rolls, egg rolls, herbs, cucumber,… all are presented in harmony on a dish and that is all you need for a delicious and nutrient meal.
The interesting features of this dish lies not only in the form of nutrition but also relatively inexpensive and offers very typical definition of Hue.
Bamboo rice is made from sticky rice and some other ingredients, all are stuffed in bamboo tubes then fried on fire till done. Bamboo rice is a specialty of minority people in the mountainous province of Vietnam. Once tasting it, eaters will immediately feel the nature’s breath.
Com Dap - Beaten rice
Vietnamese believe that clay pot is the best choice for cooking rice, it increases the flavor of rice.
When eating beaten rice at restaurant, servants will beat the clay pot by a small hammer to reveal nice yellow round shape rice inside. The rice should be served with simmered fish, pickled vegetable and shrimp sauce.
Nị rice is a traditional dish of Chăm people at Chau Giang, An Giang province. Nị rice is usually cooked with milk but some people like to add dried grapes to increase its flavor.
Chăm people eat Nị rice with Cà Púa – another special dish made from beef. The combination of the two dishes bring Chăm’s personal flavor. Eating Nị rice and Cà Púa, people will feel the fat of milk, the sweet of nuts and the salty of beef, the spicy of chili.
Discover more about Vietnam Food Culture and Use of Rice in Vietnamese cuisines.