Those who have been to Hue but have not tried ‘Com hen’ (rice with baby clams) are missing a part of the city. But if you have tried it, you will never forget the rich flavor of Com hen.
“Com hen” has long been a traditional and rural dish of Hue people. It is considered as a familiar dish of fishing villages people that are locally called the Sampan. They live all year round on boats, floating and fishing on the river. For them, fish and shrimps are high-class food which should be sold for money. They only take advantages of other small and cheap creatures, such as snails, baby clams, etc. for their regular meals. Especially, “Com hen” comes from the poor class, is honored to the king, then back to where it was created. This food can become more luxury with the more sophisticated processing way, but the rural nature of poor people is still bold in the dish.
Through the ups and downs of history, it seems that “Com hen” still plays an essential position in Hue’s culinary treasure. Those who sell “Com hen” say: To make the proper and delicious dish, it is necessary to use cooked rice left overnight. This way may keep the crispness of the vegetable and the aroma of spices. It is so strange that Vietnamese people love to eat hot rice in most of the case, only “Com hen” must be cold when serving. This characteristic comes from the thrifty personality and philosophy of Hue people: Do not waste anything!
Baby clams to make this dish must be pre-processed to remove all the mud, then wash and boil until they open their shell. Take the boiled water after being settled, pour the baby clams to a sieve to take out their kernels. Baby clam and broth are the two main flavors of “Com hen”. Also, its accompanying spices are indispensable.
All ingredients should be let cool. Only the broth of baby clams must be kept hot. A bowl of “Com hen” is mixed from all the parts before pouring the soup in. This dish should be served with a very spicy chili. It differs with “vermicelli with baby clams” which will probably be more delicious if ate dry (without broth). From the original dish of “Com hen”, there are many other variants: “vermicelli with baby clams” and “noodles with baby clams”. These variations only change the main ingredient of rice into noodles or vermicelli. However, the spices and the processing way are kept unchanged. Such variants indeed increase the richness and diversity for the dish.
From the point of view of nutrition, a bowl of “Com hen” is great because of several reasons. Firstly, it is full of nutrients and harmonizes four standard food components that are powder, protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins. Secondly, this dish is very delicious and satisfying. When eating, we have to use our five senses to enjoy. Our eyes can see the fresh green of vegetables, the bright white of rice, the red of chili, the yellow of oil, the brown color of ‘Ruoc song’ (the shredded pork), and so on. Our noses smell many scents while our ears hear rice the sound of rice paper, and peanuts. Also, our tongues taste full of fat, sweet, fleshy, sour, and spicy. Lastly, “Com hen” has an extremely reasonable price.
To prepare this dish with the authentic Hue flavor as well as maintain the nutrients, you can refer to the com hen recipe right below
Ingredients for Com hen recipe:
- 2 kg of baby clams
- Rice: 4 cup
- Banana blossoms: 50 gr
- Laska leaves
- 100 gr ‘Mam ruoc’ (Shrimp sauce), 300 gr Pigskin
- 1 tbsp minced shallot
- Peppers 1/2 tsp (minced), 1/2 rice cracker (Bánh Đa)
- White sesame: 2 tbsp
- Pepper 1/2 tsp, Chili powder 1/2 tsp
- White sugar 1/2 tsp
Instructions for making Com hen recipe:
Step 1: Soak the baby clams in water, and wash. Boil them until they open, then filter the broth and take out the kernel. Marinate baby clams with seasoning, peppers for about 10 minutes.
Step 2: Rinse, clean, shred and soak banana blossoms in water. Wash Laska leaves and chop.
Mix banana blossoms and Laska leaves together. Roast sesame then rub the pod.
Step 3: Wash pigskin, cut into bite-sized pieces, then put it on a pan to fry.
Step 4: Place the pan on the stove, pour cooking oil to heat, fry the minced shallot. Then add chili powder and mussel to stir-fry, add 1/2tsp seasoning seeds then scoop into a plate.
Step 5: Mix shrimp sauce with pork broth, and put minced chili into. Next, pour the broth of baby clams into the mixture, seasoning with MSG. Then, boil the broth again.
Step 6: Display rice, baby clams, vegetables, fried rice cracker, pigskin, sprinkle with a little sesame and decorate coriander leaves and peppers. You serve Com hen with the prepared broth above.
Depending on the taste of the eaters, we may pour the broth of baby clams into a bowl of Com hen or scoop up in a separate bowl. When serving, we will mix up Com hen with the broth to enjoy or scoop each spoonful of broth with Com hen. Com hen contains enough salt, sweet, spicy, sour, cold, hot, crispy, and fresh tastes.