“Hacco” report in Vietnam【Com Ruou】:Introducing fermented food from Vietnam


This is an article written about fermented food in Vietnam.
This time we report about “Com Ruou”, fermented food of Vietnam which fermented rice.
It is Ms.Ann who taught us. Ms.Ann is a local staff member of “B & Company”, a market research company specializing in the Vietnamese market.

Vietnamese traditional food, com ruou or fermented glutinous rice for may 5th, is double five festival or tet doan ngo in Vietnam

Q: What kind of fermented food is “Com Ruou”?

A: “Com Ruou” is one of the most common Vietnamese traditional fermented dishes.

“Cơm” refers to Vietnamese sticky rice, and “rượu” means alcohol. As you may guess, its taste is saturated with mild alcoholic scent from fermented grain liquid. The dish is commonly served annually on 5th May Lunar Calendar, which is Doan Ngo Tet, meaning the start of mid-day festival, as the sun is believed to be most close to the earth. Nowadays, not only in this event, “Com Ruou” is a perfect treat after main meals as a dessert or a type of snack on street vendors.

Vietnamese traditional food, com ruou or fermented glutinous rice for may 5th, is double five festival or tet doan ngo in Vietnam
Ordinary “Com Ruou”

Despite alcohol scent, “Com Ruou” is in fact, truly healthy. In Oriental medical, it is proven to be very good for the digest system, especially for people with digestive disorders due to its nature of sweetness, softness and rich nutrition, notably high-fibre. In addition, the dish is popular among ladies for its unique ability of being utilized for facial mask, which could balance the skin moisture and help recovering unhealthy skin, followed with whitening effects.

Vietnamese traditional food, com ruou or fermented glutinous rice for may 5th, is double five festival or tet doan ngo in Vietnam

Talking about ingredients of “Com Ruou”, the first one must be sticky rice, of any type, such as normal pure white sticky rice, “nếp cái” – yellow color rice, “nếp cẩm” – violet glutinous rice, and “gạo lứt”- hulled rice/brown color. The latter is the most traditional and mostly-used one, and has only its husk removed, whereas the bran and germ layer remain. Thus, it’s extremely nutritious and healthy. Other ingredients are water, salt and Vietnamese yeast. Yeast made with rice powder and Chinese herbs is recommended.

pure white sticky rice
pure white sticky rice

Closeup of Purple Rice
nếp cẩm

Paddy in vietnam
gạo lứt

Q: Is “Com Ruou” similar or different from Japanese Amazake?

A: “Com Ruou” is quite different in terms of appearance, ingredient and flavour as subsequent.

When it comes to fermented rice, you would probably recall Japanese Amazake. However, Vietnamese “Com Ruou” is quite different. First of all, you can tell from appearance. Amazake can be seen as whole liquid covering with milky white color. Whereas, the rice made for “Com Ruou” is still intact and its colours are diverse based on the type of rice.

Japanese Amazake
Japanese Amazake

Next regarding ingredient, yeast used in Amazake is made from a Japanese fungus called Koji, meanwhile the Vietnamese version is fermented by Vietnamese sweet yeast, made from Chinese herbs, specially designed for making “Com Ruou”. As a result, the flavor of the two dishes are different, the taste Vietnamese “Com Ruou” contains much stronger scent of alcohol while to Amazake, acohol scent is hardly recognized.

Q: Please tell me how to make “Com Ruou”?

A: Great food don’t need complex recipe, so does “Com Ruou”.

There are three main stages to have a delicious one.

Stage 1: Cook the rice

Steaming pot to make Vietnamese Rice noodle roll (banh cuon)

Before cooking, soak the rice in cold water for approximately 3 to 4 hours, and drain the water out completely. Then season the rice with a pinch of salt and mix well
To cook the rice, normally there are 3 methods, in which the 1st one would have output much softer and sticky in which the 1st one would have output much softer and sticky

Method 1: Using 2- layer steamer with water in the bottom layer, and rice at the top layer.
Method 2: Using rice cooker, similar to cook rice for daily meal. Boiled water is used with less amount than that used for daily rice
Method 3: Using pot. Frequent stirring is required
After 15 minutes the rice will be cooked, so let it cool down by spreading equally on a dish or tray.

Stage 2: Mix with yeast

First, grind the yeast, the smaller the better, then filter it with drainer
Mix rice with yeast in small amount first then gradually add more to mix, so that they can be well mixed

Stage 3: Let them fermentation

Put the mixture into a glass bottle, crock or porcelain. Compress, but not too tight, the rice to bottom to let air in for yeast working. put a rag covering the entire surface of the rice (without closing lid). After 3 to 5 days kept outside, if liquid from the rice comes out with mild scent of alcohol, it signs that the dish will become done.
For preservation, keep in freezer. If it is let outside for more than a week, the rice will be more alcoholic, spicy, and inedible.

Q: Please tell me how to eat “Com Ruou”?

A: “Com Ruou” can be served both hot or cold.

But as from the majority preference, it is best served when cold. In addition, if “nếp cẩm” rice is cooked, people often mix it with plain yogurt, the sweetness and spiciness of the rice would balance out with the sour taste of yogurt, resulting in a creamy, delicate dessert soup that is favored by many Vietnamese teenagers.

Yogurt with “Com Ruou nếp cẩm”- violet glutinous rice
Yogurt with “Com Ruou nếp cẩm”- violet glutinous rice

Though “Com Ruou” is very beneficial to human health. However, an important point to note that, if your stomach is empty, it is not suitable to eat this dish as it contains a large quantity of unrefined acids, which would resulted in a stomach full of gastric acid, damaging your spleen and abdomen. Therefore, it is best served as a dessert, after main meals.

Vietnamese traditional food, com ruou or fermented glutinous rice for may 5th, is double five festival or tet doan ngo in Vietnam

Q: Is there any difference of “Com Ruou” among areas?

A: Yes. “Com Ruou” varies between the Northern, Middle and Southern parts of Vietnam
One could easily tell by their appearances and cooking methods.

“Com Ruou” of northern Vietnam

Vietnamese traditional food, com ruou or fermented glutinous rice for may 5th, is double five festival or tet doan ngo in Vietnam

In the North, “Com Ruou” is usually made from “nếp cái”, notably with yellow color or “nếp cẩm”, violet glutinous rice. The rice is processed and would be kept intact.

“Com Ruou” of the middle Vietnam

Meanwhile, in the Middle, the dish is usually served in cubes, normally 3 cubes per bow sinking in the alcoholic liquid extracted from the fermented process.

“Com Ruou” in the Middle
“Com Ruou” in the Middle ※Source: My Phuong, Mytour, 9/2/2015, mytour.vn/location/8427-com-ruou-dac-san-nhung-dip-le-tet-cua-nguoi-viet

The method of cooking is much more meticulous. The sticky rice commonly used is “nếp ngỗng” featuring with its milky white colour and the shape of an egg Firstly, rice is steamed twice for the output can be cooked softly from within. After cooking, let the rice cool down and press it with banana leaves.

Young banana leaf isolated on white background

Put yeast equally on the surface and use knife to cut the rice into equally square shape, then put more yeast covering every part of each rice cube. Finally, take the banana leaves to wrap each cube then put in the tray for fermenting, leave a basin below for containing liquid from the fermented process. After a few days, the rice fragrance spreads out, take out the banana leaves cover, put all the rice cubes in a large bowl then soak in the extracted grain liquid, leave it for 1 more day before serving.

“Com Ruou” of southern Vietnam

Lastly, in the Southern part, the rice is rolled in small balls prior to the fermented step. In this area “Com Ruou” is cooked with normal sticky rice. As it is ready, Southern people would add sugar liquid for serving.

“Com Ruou” in the South
“Com Ruou” in the South ※Source: NhuNgoc, cookpad, cookpad.com/vn/cong-thuc/1486497-Com Ruou-miền-nam

Q: Please tell me more about Doan Ngo Tet?

A: Another typical name for Doan Ngo Tet is “Tết giết sâu bọ”, translated as “Insects killing festival”.

Many Eastern people such as Chinese and Korean commonly celebrate this period of the year. Each region has its own unique legend explains the originality of their own events.

Doan Ngo Tet
Source: Cay da, gieng nuoc, mai dinh – Net yen binh cua lang que viet, 28/03/2013, anywhere.com.vn/vn/news/detail/doc-dao-viet-nam/cay-da-gieng-nuoc-mai-dinh-net-yen-binh-cua-lang-que-viet/87

According to Vietnamese myth, in thousands of years ago, farmers were celebrating at their most ecstatic spirit after a huge bumper crop. Suddenly, insects from nowhere rose up and damaged the entire harvests, affected many lives. People were heartbroken and desperate because they couldn’t find any way to stop this hazard, some even caught serious diseases. An old man showed up, called himself Doi Truan and told everyone to prepare Offerings of only “Bánh tro” (also known as Vietnamese sticky rice dumpling), fruits, and then exercise in the yard. People followed it and only after a while, insects were falling apart and being wiped out completely. Before disappearing, the old man reminded that on this day, insects become very aggressive, but once we prepare the Offerings, they could be eliminated.

Vietnamese traditional food for may 5th, is double five festival or tet doan ngo, sticky rice cake in green leaf, also call banh u tro with pyramidal shape
“Bánh tro” – A typical dish in Doan Ngo Tet

In order to honor the help of Doi Truan, Vietnamese people named the day as “Tết giết sâu bọ” – “insects killing festival”. In addition, insects mentioned in this context are also referred to a person’s inner insects, in other word, parasites. Vietnamese ancestors believe that on this day, harmful parasites within our body would be revealed and we can easily eliminate them by eating dishes that are flavored with spiciness, bitterness and sweetness.  

Vietnamese traditional food for may 5th, is double five festival or tet doan ngo, sticky rice cake in green leaf, also call banh u tro with pyramidal shape



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