Broken rice: The evolution of a classic Vietnamese dish

Beginning as a popular comfort food option among the working class in the south, the dish has gradually found its way into Vietnam's culinary hall of fame.


An original dish of ‘com tam suon bi cha’ (broken rice with pork chop, pig skin and egg meatloaf) consisted of only cooked rice, scallions in a liquid-fat sauce, and sliced pig skin with ground roasted rice, while grilled pork was only available to wealthy families.

Traditionally a serving only consisted of rice, scallion oil garnish and shredded pork skin. Over time, the dish has evolved in line with higher living standards. Instead of pig skin, southerners began to add shredded pork.

The sauce is the spirit of the dish. Many broken rice places were shunned simply because they failed to create a decent sauce. The sauce served with the dish is savory thanks to refined sugar, premium fish sauce and sometimes a little bit of pineapple juice. Chopped garlic and chili are also added.

Pickles are a mainstay of the dish. Southern pickles are usually made of lotus stems, daikon radish and carrot. Cut into shapes of choice, the vegetables are then soaked in a mixture of vinegar, sugar and salt.

The pickles can be served as toppings on the rice, or served together with the sauce. The crunchiness and sourness help to enhance the flavours and make the dish less oily.