Com tam (broken rice)
This dish is an integral part of life in Saigon, as is Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) in Hanoi; locals eat it anytime, in the morning, afternoon or even at night. The main ingredient is fractured rice that is very cheap kind of rice in Vietnam, but preferred by chefs due to its different texture and taste. “Cơm tấm” is enjoyed with fragrant grilled pork, tough thinly shredded pork skin (called “bì”) and various green and pickled vegetables, accompany with omelet, prawn paste cakes and grilled prawns.
Sometimes, soy sauce or sesame oil added when grilling meat to make amazing smell and saffron color. Additionally, a small bowl of sauce along with a small bowl of soup broth is provided to serve with the dish. Day after day, the aromatic flavors of “cơm tấm”, of grilled pork threads their way through each street corner, each alley, whetting many curious passersby’s appetite. Just try it to think about it, miss it and then have a deep longing for it.
Bi (Pork skin with shredded pork, roasted rice powder, and garlic powder)
First thaw the pork skin in the fridge the day before you plan to make this. Submerge pork skin in slightly luke warm water with a pinch of salt. Do not use hot water as this may congeal the pork skin together. Let the skin rehydrate about 20-30 mins. Drain and allow to dry before mixing.
Also day before, cook the pork. The quick way is to boil it, but mom says the traditional way is called "ram" which means to fry in a small amount of water, bit of sugar and salt. This way imparts a beautiful flavor to the pork. Cook until done and store in fridge overnight or until cool. Thinly slice into matchstick size.
Mix the dry pork skin, pork, salt, and approximately 2-3 oz. of roasted rice powder and garlic thoroughly. Add more roasted rice powder or garlic to taste. Set aside in the fridge until ready. This mixture stores well in the freezer 1-2 months. The Bi is also very popular filling and great in banh mi!
Cha Trung Hap (Steamed Pork and Egg Custard)
Mix pork, bean thread, fungus, pepper, salt and egg whites together and set aside.
In sauce pain add oil and annatto seeds and cook for about 1 min or until desired orange/red color seeps into oil. Do not burn seeds. Strain seeds and mix cooled oil into egg yolks to get a beautiful orange/red color.
Place pork mixture into baking pan or individual ramekins. Generously layer on the egg yolk mixture and steam for about 30 minutes. This will vary with your pan and thickness of the custard. Check using sticking fork or toothpick.
We're including both our usual go to recipe for pork chops first as well as our more adventuresome brine recipe.
Suon Nuong (Coriander/Sichuan Pepper Brined Pork Chop)
Feeling experimental, I made up this brine recipe based on what I had available. Use any brining liquid or flavoring you like or skip it totally. The base for most tradition suong nuong marinades is composed of fish sauce/soy sauce and sugar. Dry roast the coriander and Sichuan peppercorns in pan and coarsely crush with mortar and pestle. In mixing bowl, use about 1-2 cups of hot water to first dissolve sugar and salt. Add chops, spices, and soy sauce and rest of the water. Submerge chops with weight if necessary. Brine for at least 2-3 hrs, but not too long as it might be too salty. Drain and pat chops dry before cooking.
Pan fry or grill. I pan fried each side on a cast iron skillet until golden brown about 3 min each side. Finished in a 325 degree oven for about 5 min.
Com Tam (Broken Rice)Tam refers to the broken rice grains while com refers to cooked rice and found in most Asian markets in the rice section. According to a knowledgeable source, this type of rice was the left over broken pieces of rice that Vietnamese rice farmers couldn't sell, so they used it for themselves. Very traditional and great texture wise, and probably not as scented as long grain jasmine rice. Not an absolute requirement if you can't find it. Substitute long grain jasmine rice if not available.