Hue – the imperial city of Vietnam during the period of the Nguyen dynasty is really famous for its extraordinary cuisine. Com Muoi (or rice with salt) has been one of the most unique dishes of Hue’s traditional food for hundreds years, because of not only its special and attractive appearance but also its delicacy and traditional spirit.
What is the Rice with salt – Com Muoi?
Com Muoi is a regal dish used to be served merely to the members of Vietnamese loyalty in the Nguyen dynasty, especially the Empires.
The table manners of the Nguyen dynasty’s Kings have always been discussed and studied a lot by history researchers. According to them, there were 35 dishes that must be served in each Kings’ meal. Nevertheless, the eating habits of the Kings of Nguyen were quite simple. In other words, the Nguyen Kings occasionally required rare foods, they were passionate about familiar and traditional ingredients like fishes, or porks. In spite of creating from familiar, traditional ingredients, the foods needed to be delicious, unique and prepared meticulously. Kings also ate leisurely, chewed carefully and tried all the food on table to feel and enjoy the tastes of foods. Some Kings, namely Duy Tan and Bao Dai, often invited their wives or trusted mandarins to have meals together, and they were usually talking to each other while they were eating. As a result, royal cooks had created Com Muoi, which is a simple yet delicate meal, to meet the requirements of both the Kings and the royal standard meals.
Rice with salt is a meal in which white rice will be served with numerous kinds of salt. This kind of food would be decorated charmingly. In particular, rice and salt will be chambered in a blue and white porcelain set of dinnerware with an antique appearance Specifically, the bowl of rice must be the biggest one laid in the middle, while the tiny bowls containing salts with many different colors will be set up around. They are all put on a circle golden bronze tray, which makes it look like a flower.
The process of making the Hue’s royal dish: Com Muoi
The process of making Hue’s rice with salt is extremely elegant and complicated.
To cook rice, cooks must choose a special rice named Nang Huong which is grown in the southern area of Hue citadel. This kind of rice is really fragrant, soft and elastic. In fact, the rice must be steamed in an earthen pot put on a wood stove, which asks cooks to keep an eye on the pot carefully to assure that the rice is not over burnt. In the past, when cooking for the Empires, the pot must only be used once, after cooking completely, the pot would be smashed. Furthermore, the water used to cook rice had to be taken from Ham Long well at the foot of Bao Quoc pagoda or on the source of Huong river.
There are over 20 types of salts that can be eaten with rice. moreover, there are several ways for cooks to process salt, such as frying, steaming, blending, or braising, and these kinds of salts are processed from various ingredients. According to the ingredients, salt can be divided into three main groups. Particularly:
- Salt from meats: pork salt, goat salt, beef salt, chicken salt
- Salt from fishes: anchovy salt, carp salt, catfish salt, goby salt, pomfret salt,… and other aquatic species like shrimp salt, shellfish salt,…
- Salt from cereals and fruits: sesame salt, pepper salt, lemongrass salt, spicy salt, galingale salt,…
- Each kind of salts will have their own colors depending on the ingredients.
How to eat Com Muoi?
Eating rice with salt is the way that Hue people can express their delicacy.
When you eat Com Muoi, you should try all kinds of salt, accompanied with elastic rice. You should eat slowly, and when you eat, you could feel the slightly salty, sweet or spicy tastes on your tongue, and this feeling would linger in your throat after you swallow.
The habits of choosing salt to make Com Muoi of Hue people are also interesting and elegant. Particularly, they often select various flavors – bitter, sweet, sour, salty and spicy to balance the taste. They also rely on weather to opt for the suitable type of salt. For example, in the rainy weather, they prefer to choose the ones which have salty, sweet and spicy tastes, and oppositely in the summer, they bias the bitter and sour ones made from cereals and fruits.
Com Muoi can also be eaten with other dishes like gio (Vietnamese sausage), fried shrimps, and especially five-color porridge.
The current popularity of Com Muoi
Even if Com Muoi is really unique, in recent years, this cuisine has been sharply faded. The common reasons for this reality are there are more and more kinds of foods appearing, and the way to make com muoi is not taken over by the descendants. Nowadays, there are just a few cooks who can process rice with salt perfectly, and there are also a rare number of restaurants serving this kind of royal food.
Hue’s rice with salt has existed for centuries. This is the sense of tradition living with the last feudal dynasty of Vietnam and becoming the soul of the ancient imperial city’s cuisine, but it has disappeared day by day in modern society. Do not hesitate, let’s travel to the hometown of Com Muoi – The Rice with salt to study about this masterpiece from the expert cooks and spread the images of it to others.