HCMC – Soil and climate in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre are behind the steady and strong growth of local coconut trees. The palm has become the main ingredient of many provincial dishes, among which is coconut rice, arguably the most popular specialty in Ben Tre.
Preparations for the dish take time, according to local cooks. In certain ways, they say, cooking coconut rice is similar to making com lam (rice in bamboo tube) in the northwestern region. However, the Mekong Delta rice specialty is cooked in coconut shells instead of sections of a bamboo trunk.
To have the best coconut rice, fragrant rice and the local xiem coconut (Siamese coconut) must be chosen. The coconut is without doubt the best Ben Tre has to offer with its exceptional sweet milk.
The clean rice is put into coconut shells. Next, add fresh coconut milk. The mixture of rice and fresh coconut milk is then steamed. A good cook should know exactly the right proportion of rice and coconut milk.
Ben Tre’s rustic dish is more appealing to food lovers when it is served with stewed shrimps, again being boiled in coconut milk. Diners should enjoy the rice while it is still hot.
Coconut trees are so closely attached to local people’s lifestyle, culture and gastronomy that the specialty may be said to represent the province’s cuisine.
In Ben Tre, which is often referred to as the “land of coconuts,” this rice specialty is often available in family reunions and traditional festivals.
By Quynh Han & Thu Hang