Com – A Vietnamese specialty

Sunday, 2018-05-13 17:10:08
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One of the origins of Com (green sticky rice) can be traced to Vong village, 7 km west of downtown Hanoi. The legend begins with a severe famine in the village many years ago.

Since the rice crop was not ready for harvest, the residents had nothing else to eat. One hungry farmer tried roasting the unripe grains of rice as his last resort. Just like the accidental invention of Coca Cola in the West, the Vong villagers found that by roasting the rice in a clay jar and smashing it to remove the husks, they could produce a delicious dish, called Com. As the rumors of the new dish spread widely, the King sent for the head villager of Vong to come to court. The King was so delighted with this dish that, thereafter, the Vong villagers were requested to present him with their Com each autumn.

The making of Com is still kept as a family secret. What most people know is that the process of making Com is complicated and tedious. The main ingredient is young glutinous rice, carefully selected since they are in blossom. The grain must be manually threshed and cleaned, before being roasted with a stoneware pan over firewood. The fire is kept low and steady and the cooking process needs full attention. To preserve the flavour and colour, each batch should comprise of 800 grams of rice at the maximum. The dried grains are then pounded in a mortar and stirred frequently from bottom to top. This step is repeated 7-8 times to remove all the husks from the grains. The final result is glossy green rice, soft and slightly chewy, that cannot be found anywhere else.

Com is normally eaten by hand, a pinch at a time, or served with red persimmons and ripe bananas. Chewing Com slowly is the way to enjoy its subtle scents, tastes and softness. One note is that Com should be eaten within 24 hours or its original taste will be lost.

Due to the short season, Com is used to make many other Vietnamese specialties to relieve people’s cravings in the other months. Examples of derivatives from Com is Com xào (stir-fried green rice), Com rang (puffy green rice that resembles rice krispies), Banh com (green rice cake- a must for Vietnamese engagement ceremonies), Kem Com (ice-cream with Com flavor) and Che com (sweetened green rice paste), etc. Several dishes that are worth-trying using Com are chicken stewed with herbs and green rice, or fried shrimp coated in Com.