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What is Broken Rice?

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Have you ever seen sacks of “broken rice” in grocery stores and wondered what they are exactly? Or maybe you’ve seen photos of a dish named “broken rice” served with pork, egg, salad, rice grains, and the like? Well, we’re here to answer all your curiosities about this strange thing. In today’s article, we’ll be discussing what broken rice is, how it’s different from regular rice, how to cook it, and where it’s considered a traditional dish. Let’s dive in!

What Kind of Rice is Broken Rice?

What is broken rice, exactly? The name may sound like a strange thing to people, but traditionally, broken rice is a cheaper grade of rice produced as a result of damage in harvest, transport, or milling process. In America and Europe, it is a food industry ingredient used to make products such as starch, however in Southeast Asia, it’s eaten for consumption. Broken rice is separated from whole rice grains with the use of a mechanical separator that sorts them by size. People have an initial assumption that broken rice is defective, but this assumption is untrue. Broken rice is only fragmented and there is nothing wrong with it. 

As broken rice grains vary in shape and size, it has a softer texture compared to whole grains and can absorb flavors in an easier manner. Broken rice also cooks faster, making it ideal to use in rice porridge, congees, and other rice-based dish recipes that need a long cooking time. Broken rice is also traditionally less expensive compared to the price of whole grain rice, except in the US where broken rice is more expensive than whole grain white rice.

What is Cơm Tấm?

In Vietnam, Cơm Tấm translates to “broken rice.” It’s a popular type of white rice dish that’s served with a host of Vietnamese dishes. It is also known as “Cơm Tấm Sài Gòn’” as it is served in Saigon, which is now Ho Chi Minh City. Com Tam can often be seen in combination plates made of grilled pork chops, egg, meatloaf, salad, and pickles. 

Traditionally, Com Tam was considered as a “poor man’s food” as its consumers were the Vietnamese working class due to its cheaper price. Vietnamese farmers initially used it as an animal feed and at one point, started cooking it for consumption. 

Nowadays, Cơm Tấm is not anymore a “poor man’s food” as it has gained popularity not only with the locals but travelers as well due to its unique flavor and texture. It has become a distinctly Vietnamese dish and tourists are highly encouraged to try a plate of Cơm Tấm when visiting Vietnam.

A plate of Cơm Tấm generally consists of grilled pork chop (“sườn nướng”), shredded pork skin, steamed egg cake, and a sunny side-up fried egg. On the side, it has nuoc chan (a dipping sauce made from fermented fish sauce) and a small bowl of canh which is a clear broth with garlic chives to cleanse the throat. Initially, Cơm Tấm was only sold as a breakfast dish, but because of the demand, it is now also sold for lunch and dinner.

Restaurants serve broken rice in a rice bowl, shaped into a dome. The rice dome is a great test to see if the Com Tam has been cooked in the proper manner as Com Tam should hold its shape when molded. The texture is moderately sticky, so if your dome spills or splits apart, it’s dry. 

Com Tam meals have also evolved with various toppings and ingredients. While grilled pork chops and pork skin are the most common aspects of a com tam recipe, other elements have become popular as well. Egg rolls and egg meatloaf have gained a following among all types of people.

Can Any Rice Grains be Made into Broken Rice?

As broken rice is the bi-product of harvesting, transportation, or milling process, any rice grains can be made into broken rice — whether one has white rice or brown rice.

How Do You Make Broken Rice?

There are two methods to cook broken rice for your family. The first method is easy and quick, while the second method requires soaking time to yield softer, fluffier rice. 

For the first method, rinse the rice with cold water for about 2-3 times or until the water is clear. After that, transfer it to a rice cooker. Add water and salt, and then level the rice into an even layer. Cook the rice using the standard setting and once it’s done, stir the rice. Keep warm until you’re ready to serve your family.

For the second method, it’s pretty much the same as the first one however, there’s one more step after washing the rice. Once you’ve added water, soak the rice for another 20-30 minutes, more or less, and then proceed with the other steps. 

We hope we’ve satisfied all your curiosities about broken rice! Now that you know what it is and how to cook it, you can have it for a satisfying dinner or lunch!

Check out our other blogs if you want to know more about the staple food, rice. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Broken Rice Pho?

It’s commonly mistaken that broken rice pho is an actual dish. But in fact, it is not. Pho is a well-known Vietnamese dish consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat. As mentioned in this article, broken rice is accompanied by grilled meats, eggs, and sauces. Broken Rice Pho probably came about as outside of Vietnam, broken rice is usually sold in pho restaurants. 

What is Broken Basmati Rice Used For?

Broken Basmati Rice is best used in curries as it can absorb a lot more flavor. It’s also a great accompaniment to meats, vegetables, or fish dishes. 

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Ji-hyun

Hailing from California, USA. Ji-hyun is a Korean American 🇰🇷🇺🇸 with two growing boys who eat their weight in rice each week. After graduating UCLA & becoming a mom she started We Know Rice as a guide for all the students and moms out there looking to cook healthy and filling meals.

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