Vietnamese broken rice: if it’s broke don’t fix it, eat it.

During my 3 weeks in Adelaide I had a mild twice-a-week obsession – broken rice and avocado smoothies at a Van Restaurant. This is a Vietnamese restaurant tucked away in a quiet residential street deep in the inner-western suburbs of Adelaide where many Vietnamese settled in the mid-70s. It’s the kind of restaurant you’d never know about unless you were part of the Vietnamese community or the small group of Adelaideans who are lucky enough to be in the know. To give you a better idea, they don’t have ANY web-presence; in fact this blog entry is probably the first thing ever written about the restaurant on the Internet! Thankfully I’m both Vietnamese and have ‘in-the-know’ friends and family because Van Restaurant satisfies my regular cravings for Vietnamese restaurants that are cheap, authentic eats that capture the real essence of Vietnam.

The avocado smoothie or ‘sinh tố Bơ’ is a delicious creamy, sweet dessert drink made from blended avocados, ice, milk and condensed milk. Springtime and avocado season are nearly here so I’ll be posting a recipe for this luscious drink as soon as I can get my hands on some good avocados!

Broken rice (Cơm tấm) is a dish that was historically eaten by rice farmers who couldn’t sell off their leftover broken rice grains. Instead, they would use it for themselves. I am thankful for their ingenuity because now we can enjoy the softer texture of broken rice, which soaks up all the wonderful flavours of the marinated pork chops and tangy fish sauce.

Vietnamese broken rice varies a lot around Vietnam, but it’d be safe to say that the dish is normally made up of broken rice, marinated pork chops, shredded pork skin, steamed pork and egg patty, a sunny side up fried egg, pickled carrots and daikon, sliced cucumbers and tangy fish sauce for dipping.

Here’s the recipe:

Cơm Tấm Bì Sườn Chả (Vietnamese broken rice with pork chops, shredded pork skin and steamed pork and egg patty) – Serves 6-7 people

Ingredients for the shredded pork skin:

450g cooked, shredded pork skin (found in Vietnamese /Asian grocery stores in the frozen section)

220g pork shoulder, cut in 3×2 inch rectangles

85g roasted rice powder (found in spice section in Asian groceries)

55g garlic powder

1 tsp salt


1)    Thaw the pork skin in the fridge the day before you plan to make this.

2)    Submerge pork skin in slightly lukewarm water with a pinch of salt. Do not use hot water as this may congeal the pork skin together.

3)    Let the skin rehydrate about 20-30 mins. Drain and allow to dry before mixing.

4)    Also day before, cook the pork by boiling it. Cook until done and store in fridge overnight or until cool.

5)    Thinly slice into matchstick size.

6)    Mix the dry pork skin, pork, salt, most of the roasted rice powder and garlic thoroughly.

7)    Add the rest of the roasted rice powder or garlic to taste.

8)    Set aside in the fridge until ready.

9)    This mixture stores well in the freezer 1-2 months.

Ingredients for the steamed pork and egg patty:

450g ground pork

1 small bundle of bean thread noodles (soaked, drained, cut into 2-3 inch length)

1/2 cup dried wood-ear fungus (soaked and drained)

2 tbs pepper

1 tbs salt

2 egg whites

2 egg yolks

1/2 tsp annatto seeds

1 tbs oil


1)    Mix pork, bean thread, fungus, pepper, salt and egg whites together and set aside.

2)    In sauce pain add oil and annatto seeds and cook for about 1 min or until desired orange/red colour seeps into oil. Do not burn seeds.

3)    Strain seeds and mix cooled oil into egg yolks to get a beautiful orange/red colour.

4)    Place pork mixture into baking pan or individual ramekins or in a cake tin.

5)    Generously layer on the egg yolk mixture and steam for about 30 minutes.

6)    This will vary with your pan and thickness of the patty. Check using sticking fork or toothpick.

Ingredients for the pork chops:

3 tbs fish sauce

2 tbs sugar

1 tbs dark soy sauce

1 tbs olive oil

2 tbs minced garlic

6 pork chops


1)    Marinade the pork with fish sauce, sugar, garlic, oil, and dark soy sauce for min 2 hrs.

2)    Pan fry or grill the chops.


Broken rice (cook according to the packet instructions)

Sliced cucumbers for garnish

A sunny side up fried egg

Dipping Fish sauce (recipe from the ravenous couple)

Pickled carrots and daikon (recipe from the ravenous couple)

Sliced spring onions fried in hot oil

Chef’s notes:

Arrange everything you’ve made above onto separate plates like this:

To make this dish in true authentic style, you will need access to a good Asian grocery store where you can buy shredded pork skin and broken rice.

However, you can still enjoy the flavours of this dish by substituting or even removing some parts of the dish. For example, you could leave out the shredded pork skin or swap the broken rice for plain jasmine rice.

The key flavour ingredients that must be present in the dish are the pork chops, pork and egg patty, fried egg, fish dipping sauce and pickles.


Van Restaurant
90 Alicia Street
Athol Park SA 5012
(Open lunch and dinner, no reservations needed)

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13 Responses to “Vietnamese broken rice: if it’s broke don’t fix it, eat it.”
  1. Now thats a motto I can get behind. If its not broke dont fix it, eat it.

    “I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.”
    – Madame Benoit

  2. sarah says:

    Looks wonderful. We live around the corner from an asian grocery store so its perfect. I’m also very much looking forward to that avocado smoothie!

  3. Agnieszka says:

    Hey jenny,

    i will try to make this for my birthday…. just saw chi and i am completely fixed on vietnamese food. Post more vietnamese recepies please!!!

    big kiss lady…

  4. Catherine says:

    Love this post…I too became obsessed with the avocado smoothies on a recent Aus trip although it was in Melbourne where I discovered them! Also the broken rice dish sounds tasty…i’m headed to Vietnam in next couple of weeks so any other tips or places to go would be welcomed! Thanks

    • jennynoowyn says:

      I used to drink them in Melbourne too! At a place on Victoria Street, Richmond called Co Do…yummm

      Vietnam…hmmm have only been once and that was 6 years ago so can’t remember too much other than sitting on a beach in Mui Ne 🙂 But Rick Stein did a good show about Vietnam in his ‘far eastern odyssey series… watch it and you’ll definitely get some good food tips! Have fun!

  5. Any chance that you can tell us more (or post a recipe for) those avocado smoothies? I love anything avocado, and these sound refreshing and delicious!

  6. Alyssa says:

    this looks amazing! vietnamese food is so good! have you ever had korean food? oh my, that is the most amazing flavor!

  7. How cool! I find nothing more exhilarating than a hidden treasure like the restaurant you mentioned. Love this post. It’s good to be in the know. XOXO

  8. fierygourmet says:

    love this dish….ate it every day when i was visiting vietnam. i’m gonna be doing a com tam blog next month as well! thanks for the inspiration!

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