The Way Rice Should Be: Vietnamese Street Food, Part 2 — Cóm Gà
Thursday, August 25, 2016 11:41 AM
During our recent trip to Vietnam, we took a few days in Hoi An, a little resort town on the central coast. The thousand-year-old town was a thriving trading port during the 15th to 19th centuries and still has a preserved ancient village in the center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Hoi An’s buildings and streets reflect a unique blend of foreign and local influences due to the town’s constant contact with foreign traders. But over the years, merchant activity in Hoi An waned and it was known as somewhat of a backwater until the tourist industry saved the town. These days, Hoi An is a bit of a tourist trap, crawling with European backpackers. But in between the hundreds of tourist souvenir shops are little alleys packed with food stands where locals still come to eat. Because of Hoi An’s history as a port city, its food has a lot of influences from China and Japan.
One particular dish I kept coming across was Cóm Gà — mint chicken salad with turmeric rice — which is one of the dishes Hoi An is most famous for. It tasted a lot like Chinese Hainan chicken rice, but with a Vietnamese flare. Cóm Gà is such a simple dish and yet it’s so refreshing and delicious. With the fresh herbs, it makes the perfect summer meal. And so this week I’d like to share with you my version of this simple chicken rice dish, which you can make with all the fresh herbs growing in your garden.
You will need:
- For the chicken:
- 1 large chicken breast with skin and bone
- 11⁄2 onion
- 1 inch chunk ginger
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 scallions
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1⁄4 tsp. black pepper
- 11⁄4 tsp. soy sauce
- 1⁄8 tsp. fish sauce
- dash of sugar
- handful of mint
- 1⁄2 lime
- For the rice:
- 1 cup rice
- 11⁄2 cup chicken broth
- 1⁄4 tsp. turmeric
- 1⁄4 tsp. salt
- handful of basil
- handful of cilantro
- handful of bean sprouts
- handful of perilla leaves (optional)
- hot sauce
Roast one whole onion directly over flame until all sides are charred. This will only take one to two minutes. Do the same with the ginger. (photos 1, 2, 3)
Peel both the onion and ginger. In a large pot, heat up 4 cups water with chicken breast, 2 scallions, 1⁄2 tsp. salt, 1⁄8 tsp. black pepper and the peeled onion and ginger. (photo 4) Let it come to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breast.
In the meantime, thinly slice up 1⁄2 onion and soak it in cold water; this will take away some of the spicy flavors and also keep it crunchy. (photo 5) Set aside until needed.
Once the chicken is cooked, take it out of the broth and let it cool for 10 minutes so it will be easier to handle. Cook the rice in the chicken broth we’ve just made along with 1⁄2 tsp. salt and 1⁄4 tsp. turmeric. Keep the onion, ginger and scallion in the broth — this will make the rice even more flavorful. (photo 6)
Once the chicken is cooled enough to handle, shred it into thin strips. Mix in the soaked onion strips along with 1 clove of minced garlic, 11⁄4 tsp. soy sauce, 1⁄8 tsp. fish sauce, dash of sugar, 1⁄2 tsp. salt, 1⁄8 tsp. black pepper and a handful of mint. (photo 7)
You may adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Once the rice is cooked, top it off with the shredded chicken and a handful of fresh herbs, bean sprouts and a scoop of your favorite hot sauce, such as sambal.
For more dishes and recipes inspired by our trip to Vietnam, visit