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Saturday, July 20, 2024

“Hell” rice that tastes like heaven

By Gia Han

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Among the specialties of the ancient city of Hue, Com am phu, or “Hell” rice, stands out with its combination of white rice, pork, shrimp, egg and herbs, culminating in a flavorsome experience

The origin of the name of the dish comes from many local legends of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). One of them is the story of a king who went undercover to discover how his people lived. On the way, he asked an old woman for a meal. She prepared a dish of white rice served with many ingredients such as pork, shrimp, eggs, herbs and pickles for the king. As the poor house had just a tiny oil lamp, he enjoyed the simple meal in a quiet dark space and thus called it com am phu (hell rice).

Com am phu requires fragrant rice, which is soaked in cold water for two hours before it is cooked to make it soft and prevent it from being dried. Meanwhile, pork is cut into strips, marinated with spices and grilled over charcoal.

Aside from the two main ingredients, the specialty includes dried shrimp, pork paste, herbs and pickles, cut into strips. A plate of com am phu looks as good as it tastes—a heap of white rice surrounded by the other ingredients. It is eaten with a dipping sauce that is a mixture of fish sauce, lemon juice, sugar, chilis and garlic.

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