Coming to Vietnam, you must know that the locals don’t use wheat or bread, or at least not very often. Instead, they use rice. Rice has been one of the most important assets this country has, along with its diligent and creative people. Rice appears in every meal, regardless it is in the hurry morning or in the family dinner. Rice is the jewel, the pearl of this land.
Lam (Cơm Lam):
This special dish is not only daily meal for the highlanders, but it also has a spiritual value to them. The meal, is made meticulously by the locals, preserves the flavor and the sense of the jungle. It also follows the five elements of yin and yang. When a highlander decided to go into the jungle, he or she only has to prepare the rice from the field. The rest of the ingredients and tools are provided by the Mother Nature. The rice is contained in a bamboo tube, which is wood (or mộc in Vietnamese). The rice is cooked with the water from the stream deep in the jungle, which is water (or thủy). The rice is also cooked on small fire (or hỏa) and on the ground (or thổ). All of the elements in one dish. The rice will have the smell of the bamboo. It is sweet and pappy so it is best to eat with salt or sesame.
Ni (Cơm Nị):
Nị is a traditional cuisine of the Cham or Campa (Chăm or Chàm in Vietnamese) people, a small ethnic group in the southeast of Vietnam, and it is greatly influenced by their Hinduism, Muslim and Vietnamese tradition. The bowl of Cơm Nị has a yellow of turmeric, the bold smell of curry, the green of shiso leaf, and the sweetness of seafood mix together that make the dish irresistible for those who never try and unforgettable for those who try. The Cham usually serves Cơm Nị with Cà Púa, a traditional sauce made from beef, curry, minced chili-cilantro salt, and one special Vietnamese ingredient: the coconut milk.
The Cham used curry from their origin. However, for a long period of time, a part of the Cham switched to Muslimism. Under the French influence and the Vietnamese majority, all of the cultures mixed together made this land one of the most diverse cultural regions.
Enjoying the delicious Cơm Nị – Cà Púa, the dinners will detect the fat of the coconut and the peanut, the sweet of the beef, of dried grapes and the hot of chili and curry blend in as one.
(A combination of Cơm Nị and Cà Púa, one special cuisine in the Cham’s complex culinary culture, creates an explosive yet unique in flavors.)
Five Color Sticky Rice (Xôi Ngũ Sắc):
Tay people, an ethnic group lives concentrate in the Northeast region of Vietnam, grow a lot of sticky rice (lúa nếp). This is their main source of food. In the festival seasons, the Tay usually makes the Five Color Rice.
The making process is quite complex. The colors are from the grasses in the local regions and many other herbs like ginger or turmeric. The five colors usually are white, red, purple, green and yellow. The rice will be wrapped by banana leaves, and then cooked. Using this technique, the rice will preserved the smell of the herbs in side it and also the special smell of the banana leaves.
(Five Colors Sticky rice is an elegant dish of the Tay)
Cơm Tấm (Broken RIce):
To the Kinh, the majority ethnic group in Vietnam, the broken rice is bucolic, yet it is also one of the best things of Vietnam. For each region, there will be a special type of Cơm Tấm. However, the best of all is the Southern broken rice, where the pork is perfectly cooked and the rice is perfectly broken. The rice, in order to deliver the perfect dish of rice, has to be “broken.” The regular rice in Vietnam is usually stuck together, and not “broken.” The rice has to be separate from each other so that the flavors of the sauce, the pork can mix with the rice and cilantro. That is the rice.
The next best thing is the pork. The pork must be spiced the night before. Then the pork has to be grilled, not on the electric or gases stove, but on the coal grill station. The coal will leave a special smell on the pork.
The most important thing is the sauce. Yes it is fish sauce, but the fish sauce for the broken rice usually included lemon, ginger, and many more else ingredients. Along with the rice, pork and the sauce fish are the cilantro in oil, eggs, ribs, bologna… (447)