Broken rice? Ever heard of it? Me either.
Friends who frequent Vietnam told me that Broken Rice is a must-have dish, but they didn’t tell me why. They just said it was “good”. So I started to wonder if its popular because of the flavor in the rice or if it was the texture? Is this dish part of Vietnamese culture? Are there other ingredients other than rice?
Well, they said nothing… but then again, all of my friends are guys and I know how they are with the specifics.
So I took it upon myself to figure out the details of my food curiosity…
Scenario: I asked local Couchsurfer Ken to take me somewhere good for broken rice. After a few turns on the motorbike, Ken parked. When I looked around I was kinda wondering why he stopped. I only saw two things:
- a sign for Piercings and Tattoos
- a Vietnamese woman sitting on the sidewalk at 6:30am…
Is Ken planning to get a tattoo? No.
Was it down the street? No.
And that’s when I realized I was standing in the middle of the “restaurant”. Eureka!
So Ken and I sat down on the toddler-sized plastic seats and waited for our broken rice to arrive.
With my elbow on the table, head tilted and eyes half-asleep (mind you it’s 6:30am), my senses perked up once I got a whiff of the BBQ smoke as the broken dish approached the table.
BBQ Pork: The meat was marinated, grilled and fanned right before my very eyes and although a bit weary to taste the pork that just came off of the grill that’s perched 1 foot above the cement… it was OHH SO GOOD. The BBQ Pork is an essential ingredient to the broken rice dish, if not the most important (aside from the rice). Super tender, coated in a yummy BBQ sauce and cooked just enough to give it a crispness on the outside.
Broken Rice Dish: As for the rest of the dish, the Broken Rice had shredded pork, pork skin, pickled vegetables, a prawn paste cake, and of course, a layer of broken rice on the bottom (just look at the picture below). Everything was great, loved the nutty flavor in the rice and the pickled veggies… but I absolutely can’t get over the pork. Why did it have to end?? If only I knew how to say “more pork please” in Vietnamese, le sigh…
Oh and did I mention that this costs like $1.00?
Location: Ken told me there are fancier places to eat broken rice, but this place was perfect. I prefer eating an authentic plate of broken rice on the street for $1.00, rather than a greasy-modernized version of it at a restaurant for ten times the amount. So if you feel the same way as me, just sniff your way to the street stall… you will find it.
And just to give you a little more info:
The broken rice dish originated because “broken grains” were not suitable for retail. Instead of wasting the food, farmers brought it home to eat with their families and created dishes for it.
What’s the difference between broken rice grains and whole grain rice?
– Broken rice has a nuttier flavor
– Broken rice is stickier than whole gain
– Broken rice has a shorter shelf life than whole grain rice