Fried rice is staple of the cuisines of many Asian countries and each country cooks its own unique way and Vietnam is no different.
The Vietnamese fried rice pictured above is a delicious vegetarian version which I was served at the Quán Chay Thiền Nguyệt Restaurant which is part of Long Son Pagoda in Nha Trang. The food at this much underrated restaurant is all vegetarian and it was so good that I didn’t even realise that meat was absent from my meal until the young monk serving the food told me after I had finished.
About Vietnamese fried rice
The concept of frying rice along with other things as dish in itself is believed to have started in China during the Sui dynasty (581 to 618 AD). The dish originally consisted of rice fried with vegetables and meat, flavoured with soy sauce, garlic and seasoning. This Chinese export has been taken up all over Asia, as well as South America and the Middle East, with variations on the dish being introduced region by region.
In Malaysia the most popular fried rice dish is nasi goreng made with sweet say sauce and accompanied by fired egg, chicken and sambal, a fiery sauce made with chilli, garlic, vinegar, fish sauce, shallots and other ingredients. In Thailand, the most popular rice dish is khao phad made by frying rice with meat or shrimps, onion, egg, and other vegetables and served with phrik nam pla, which is sauce made by mixing chopped fresh chilli with fish sauce.
Vietnamese fried rice, or com rang as it is generically known, also comes in variety of different forms. What makes it different to other fried rices, however, is that it comes with a crunchy texture. The crunch traditionally comes from the rice being cooked slowly in a large pan, rather cooked in a rice cooker or a steamer. This slow cooking process results in the bottom layer of the rice becoming slightly burnt as it sticks to the pan.
This outer layer of browned rice has a very distinctive taste which is used to add texture and flavour to Vietnamese fried rice. In modern Vietnam companies make products which emulate the taste and texture of the burnt layer of rice for cooks to add to com rang dishes without undertaking the painstaking chore of slow cooking the rice in a large pan. When people try authentic Vietnamese fried rice for the first time they are generally surprised as to how much difference the addition of lightly burnt rice makes to the dish.
Location of Quán Chay Thiền Nguyệt
Quán Chay Thiền Nguyệt Restaurant is located 500 metres walking distance from Nha Trang Railway Station.