A corner view of Gio Noi Restaurant.
In Vietnam, Com, or steamed rice, is an essential part
of the daily meal, rather like bread in western countries.
Between being harvested in the field and ending up steamed
on the table, rice can be prepared in a variety of ways,
most often in an electric pot, as families living in
the city often do, or in an aluminum pot put on coals.
However, there is another way that is less used now
by families but is very traditional, known as Com Tho,
or clay-pot steamed rice.
Com Tho is a rural country dish, often served with traditional
Vietnamese dishes such as boiled vegetables dipped in
fish sauce, vegetable soups, pork prepared with pepper,
or fish cooked with brine with certain vegetables and
pepper, prepared in a clay pot.
Unlike ordinary rice cooking, Com Tho preparation
is elaborate, with specific portions of water and rice.
If not correctly measured, the result could be a mess!
To prepare Com Tho, one puts a small measured amount
of good quality, washed rice into a small clay pot and
adds water. This procedure requires experienced
cooks. If too much water is fed into the pot, the steamed
rice will turn viscous and soft, and be flavourless.
If too little water is used the steamed rice will be
dry and undercooked, and of course that is not pleasant
for diners either! These pots are put into a bigger
pot and steamed for around 45 minutes. With a
proper cooking, clay-pot steamed rice will produce an
aroma and a soft grain of rice. Clay-pot steamed rice
should never have a burnt smell.
Each pot is put on the dining table for diners to serve
themselves. It is important that the steamed rice
is kept warm during the meal.
Moreover, each pot should contain just enough rice,
as too much could make diners feel tired of eating,
and too little could leave them feeling unsatisfied.
It is a feeling of ‘enough’ that is desired. Gourmets
who are not full after a pot may order more until they
There are only a few restaurants serving clay-pot steamed
rice in the city. To sample this fare, one can
visit Gio Noi Restaurant, located on the ninth floor
of Que Huon,g or Liberty Hotel, in the so-called ‘backpacker
westerners quarter’ of Pham Ngu Lao street in downtown
HCMC. Apart from the daily set menu of dishes
served with clay-pot steamed rice, the restaurant sets
up a vegetable buffet with a variety vegetables from
which dinners can choose for themselves. There
is also a salad stand with fruits and drinks.