Passed down for generations, Vietnamese ways of cooking rice is
one of the most important parts of a family meal. Rice accompanying dishes of
meat, poultry or fish is customary in Vietnam.
Shaping the culture, diet and economies of millions of Vietnamese people, rice
even makes some of the country's favorite desserts. Traditionally, water
buffalo help plow the rice fields and every rice seedling is carefully
transplanted by hand.
Pot-roasted rice is regarded as a
delicacy and has a distinct flavor. The rice is fried in a wok with peanut oil
until it is opaque and golden in color. Hot water is added, brought to a boil
and allowed to simmer, covered for about 20 minutes. Lemongrass, mint and Thai
basil are all well-liked herbs to add while cooking rice in this way, but when
the rice is herbed, the herb is chosen to complement the main course of the
dish. A single, flavorful herb is often featured in every element of a meal.
Long grain rice is served at almost
every meal and is the most frequently eaten grain in Vietnam.
While a rice cooker is not something that was used in ancientVietnam,
it is now a common kitchen appliance. An herb, such as coriander, lavender and
rosemary, added to the water in the rice cooker infuses the rice with flavor
while it cooks and delicious, perfumed rice is the result.
To make Vietnamese sticky rice, the
rice is soaked for at least six hours, then drained, rinsed carefully and
drained again before it is steamed in a bamboo steamer over a wok or heavy pan.
This dish makes sweet rice cakes that the Vietnamese enjoy sweetened with sugar
and coconut milk. It is a filling snack and is often served with dipping
sauces, vegetarian meals or other light dishes. During the Lunar New Year, a
traditional snack is sticky rice is wrapped in banana leaves, stuffed with mung
bean paste, lean pork and black pepper.
Without fail, dawn during the
Vietnamese New Year festivals brings as many as 200 women to float in bamboo
boats on the local ponds, adhering to the traditional rules of the rice cooking
competitions. Each competitor is allowed the use of dried sugar cane, which
burns with difficulty, for fuel and the test intensifies with windy or rainy
conditions. The contestant that finishes first, with the best quality rice
produced, is regarded highly by the many annual spectators.