Com tam, or Vietnamese broken rice, is a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. It’s a poverty food, based on the broken, unsellable leftovers of the rice polishing process. Com Tam Thuan Kieu, a com tam specialist, “is one of those gems in a boring mini-mall in a forgotten corner of a dirty section of Little Saigon,” says Das Ubergeek. The menu consists of various combinations of standard toppings over com tam.

Com tam platters are enormous, and cheap. They also taste incredible, says Das Ubergeek. The rice has an unusual texture: not very sticky, and unevenly broken. Available toppings include perfect, snappy lap xuong sausage, and properly dry and powdery bi (shredded pork). There’s also tender tau hu ky, fried tofu stuffed with shrimp paste. Thit nuong (grilled pork) is good too, suggests Raspberries.

This is how you eat such a platter, explains Das Ubergeek: “pour the nuoc cham over the plate, except for the vegetables. Then grab one of the Thai bird chilies that’s in a bowl near the forks and spoons (no chopsticks for com tam). Eat some of the garnish with some of the rice, then take a bite — a VERY VERY SMALL bite — of the chili. It is mind-numbingly hot. Swallow. Have a bit of the soup — even though it’s still steaming, it will cool off your mouth. Repeat, alternating with bits of cucumber, which cut through the entire flavor party like a dip in a cold pool.”

The perfect accompaniment is Com Tam’s toothachingly sweet limeade.

Com Tam Thuan Kieu [Little Saigon]
14282 Brookhurst Street #2, Garden Grove

Board Link: Explorations on Brookhurst: Com Tam Thuan Kieu

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