For many Saigon residents, a District 3 alley is the place to go to when they feel like some broken rice.
Broken rice, or com tam, carries more than its literal meaning of smaller grains. It is a dish every Vietnamese knows and is particularly popular in the south.
Son Nam, a famous Vietnamese writer and cultural researcher, says broken rice was a popular dish among the working class in the Mekong Delta. When these workers migrated to urban areas, they took the dish with them, modifying it over the years. But the basic ingredient of the dish – fragments of rice grains broken by milling or during drying, has remained unchanged.
Like normal rice, broken rice is also boiled so the perfectly cooked broken rice is dry and not be sticky.
For many years, a family run street stall called Com tam Hung at 194/2 Vo Van Tan Street in District 3 has been one of the most popular places for this dish.
Traditionally, the cooked broken rice is mainly paired with suon (grilled pork) and bi (shredded pig’s skin and meat). However, cha (a Vietnamese meatloaf with steamed pork, egg and other ingredients inside) and sunny-side-up eggs are also popular toppings.
For those keen on trying something different, the stall also serves braised shrimp.
Com tam is usually garnished with pickled vegetables, including daikon radish and carrot.
All the elements come together when the silky-white broken rice and topping of choice is accompanied by a dash of fish sauce.
A serving of broken rice at this stall costs VND50,000 ($2).
Hung and his family members have been running this place for 30 years. The relatives do everything, from going to the market, cooking, getting orders, serving customers and cleaning up.
One of the family members grills pork in the upper level of their house, so that they can continuously serve freshly grilled, well-seasoned and tender pork.
The venue opens from 6 a.m. until noon.