Vietnamese broken rice is a cornerstone of Vietnamese cuisine especially when you talk about Com Tam or Vietnamese rice dishes. Included in this post is a step-by-step guide on how to make broken rice, what it means to Vietnamese cuisine, and which dishes to serve it with.
Com tam is something I loved growing up. The term “com tam” refers to Vietnamese broken rice, and is often used to describe the whole category of Vietnamese rice dishes. When you think of these dishes, you probably think com suon, com ga, or com bi. I personally loved com suon or Vietnamese broken rice served with grilled pork. It is not only filling but also comforting.
What is Vietnamese broken rice or com tam?
These rice dishes are a huge part of Vietnamese cuisine. Broken rice refers to the pieces of rice that break apart in the milling process. In Vietnam, they are often seen as less desirable than whole grains of rice. My mom used to tell me that broken rice was consumed mostly by the poorest people because they could not afford regular rice. Ironically in Western countries like the US, broken rice is often more expensive than regular rice.
What does it taste like?
Broken rice tastes the same as regular rice, but because they are smaller than long grain rice, the texture is a bit different. To me, the texture is almost like eating fish roe without the fishy flavor. Because of the size of each grain, they also tend to soak in flavors better. When people eat com tam, they often drizzle nuoc cham over the rice and then eat it with whatever protein is on the plate. The taste of nuoc cham on the rice is nothing like anything I’ve ever tasted before.
How to cook Vietnamese broken rice
There are 2 methods to make broken rice: on the stove top and in a rice cooker. Personally, I think the easier method is to make it in a rice cooker because you set it and forget it. However, I included both in case you don’t have a rice cooker!
Cooking broken rice on the stove top
First, add broken rice to a pan. Rinse the rice until water runs clear (2-3 times). Add the water to pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
Cooking broken rice in a rice cooker
First, add broken rice to the bowl of a rice cooker. Rinse the rice until water runs clear (2-3 times). Add the water to the bowl and put the lid on. Change the setting to cook or press the white rice setting. The rice cooker will do the rest and signal you when the rice is done.
Tips on how to cook Vietnamese broken rice
Rinse the rice until the water runs clear
This is a really important step to making any white rice because it helps rinse away any of the nasty bits around the rice and removes excess starch. If you don’t rinse the rice, the resulting texture of the cooked rice becomes sticky and mushy.
Make a test batch of your rice
Every single brand of white rice is different, so the amount of water you will need will be different. I recommend making a test batch of your rice if you haven’t cooked it before, so you know how much water you will need.
Dishes served with Vietnamese broken rice
A plate of com tam typically consists of Vietnamese broken rice, some sort of protein like pork or chicken, pickled vegetables (typically pickled carrots and daikon), fresh cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, sometimes cha trung hap, and nuoc cham for dipping and drizzling on the rice. The rice is also garnished with a drizzle of scallion oil or Mo Hanh. There are a lot of variations on the protein that’s served, and you can usually find the protein in the name of the dish. For example, Com Suon is Vietnamese broken rice served with grilled pork. “Com” is the Vietnamese word for rice and “Suon” is the word for Grilled Pork Chop. Similarly, Com Ga is Vietnamese broken rice served with chicken.
When we make com tam at home, we often change what we include on the plate. Sometimes we won’t have fresh cucumbers and just have pickled vegetables. Sometimes we’ll have cha trung hap with the rice, and sometimes we won’t. I think the most important components to have on a plate of com tam is a protein, broken rice, and some sort of vegetable. You need all those components for balance.
Did you make this dish?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
Disclaimer: If you purchase anything through a link on this site, I may receive a small commission from the purchase at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I would personally use. Thank you so much for the support!
How to Cook Vietnamese Broken Rice (Com Tam)
- 2 cups broken rice
- 2 cups water
- Add broken rice to a pan.
- Rinse the rice until water runs clear (2-3 times).
- Add the water to the pan and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.