Com Tam Time

Streetfood has remained a permanently exciting and indulgent fixture in my daily comings and goings around Saigon.

I have expressed a few thoughts on this blog in the past about pho, the staple Vietnamese noodles (increasingly popular and available in the UK now, I noticed last month) and which we usually eat two or three times a week.  There are some moments when noodles just hit the mark.  Fiery chili heat combined with leaves, bamboo shoots, raw steak and delicate broth.

There are some moments – for me, this is currently every day, hence capturing this for future posterity – when only Com Tam will do.

Com Tam translates as “broken rice” and is a special type of rice, shorter, slightly more al denté than normal rice, and typically accompanied with chopped cucumber, chives, bbq pork (or other types of meat) sweet honey sauce, chili and, should you desire, a fried egg on top.

Behold…

Feast your eyes, and your stomach...

Feast your eyes, and your stomach…



There is something very special about sitting under a tree, by the roadside, on a plastic chair, huddled over this simple, yet masterly, concoction.

As with other local dishes, there is a moment of preparation that kicks off your meal, as you meticulously administer the prefered amount of chili into the honey sauce, before dipping and devouring your way through the food itself.  All washed down with iced cold lotus tea.

The owners of my favourite local com tam place run a slick operation.  They are a wonderful family, with loyal customers and a great reputation as cooking the “best pork in the district”.  The plumes of bbq smoke they produce, billowing down the street at the end of where we live, are so reliable, that the temptation to stop for breakfast on the way to work is, all too often, too great to pass up!

The even better news is that Flo and Martha are also com tam converts now.  Although, as is evidenced by the photos below, their appetites are generally well established.

Like father, like daughters.

Martha and her iced tea

Martha and her iced tea

Com Tam princess

Com Tam Princess

Martha stealing chairs

Martha stealing chairs

What happens when you utter the words "you can have ice cream for pudding if you finish your rice" to children

What happens when you utter the words “you can have ice cream for pudding if you finish your rice” to children

How to eat pancakes?  Flo - with chop sticks.  Martha - no utensils required thanks

How to eat pancakes? Flo – with chop sticks. Martha – no utensils required thanks

Off in search of more food...

Off in search of more food…

On a real train. Drinking milk.  Butter wouldn't melt...

On a real train. Drinking milk. Butter wouldn’t melt…

And a final tune to which to play out the weekend, on the birthday anniversary of Grandma Edna – who I miss very much, and who would have perhaps liked com tam, too.  Happy Birthday, Ma.

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