We often see the picture of some women carrying big loads walking around Saigon streets. Even sometimes at night, we get to see them surrounding the loads into a circle, like a wall separates their world with the outside world; and there are 4 or 5 women sleep inside the circle. They are Quang Ngai women go to the big city to sell their homeland’s speciality: Com (grilled green rice)
Quang Ngai grilled green rice has always been so popular; until now, its reputation still remains. Quang Ngai grilled green rice is apparently not less popular than Thanh Huong grilled green rice in Thai Binh, Northern Vietnam. According to Quang Ngai natives, Mo Duc grilled green rice is the best among other kinds.
Usually in the beginning of December each year, when the late rice, summer crop (or gradual rice) in Tu Son, Vinh Thanh, An Long, Thach Tru (Mo Duc) are fully ripen, every road of the village resounds a joyful rhythm of people grinding the green rice.
Grilled green rice is a special food which carries the country and the harvest time’s flavor. Almost every family in the countryside of Quang Ngai likes it. Especially to young children, the taste of grilled green rice has become an impressive memory; it would remind them of their hometown if by any chance, they move to other places.
There are two main kinds of grilled green rice: sticky grilled green rice (com nep) and traditional grilled green rice (com gao). Com nep is made from sticky rice, has special taste. Com gao is made from different kinds of rice: hulled rice, summer crop…
Quang Ngai grilled green rice has a unique characteristic: To be grinded to grilled green rice, rice first has to be wet; it is most convenient when flooded. Therefore, in winter, ripen rice fields in Quang Ngai are very likely to make grilled green rice.
Since grilled green rice is made from a special kind of rice, it is also important to choose the right seeds, not to be mixed with others, and particularly it needs to be harvested at the right time. After harvesting rice, we must not thresh or crumple it up, but plucking rice of the ears or threshing it by foot. Next, roast it in a thick pot or in an earthen pot. We also have to watch the fire to make sure it is a smouldering fire, so that grilled green rice will have the natural sweet taste. This step must be done by a professional grilled green rice maker. People usually use a pair of long chopsticks move around constantly to avoid rice gets licked up by the flame. After a while, the pot would send out some fun cracking sounds.
When rice is fully roasted, people pour it right away into a rice mortar and grind when it is still hot. Grinding rice is a sophisticated step: the rice-pounding pestle cannot be too heavy or too light; grinding must be done constantly because the rice would get cold soon, rice flakes would be broken and curdled. It takes a professional grinder and an expert in moving the rice; move it from below, from above and around gradually. After 5 minutes, they put it together in a closely-woven basket, sifting and winnowing to get rid of the rice husks. A rice mortar contains about 500 grams grilled green rice.
When making sticky grilled green rice (com nep), people roast rice, then put it out to dry on broad flat drying basket and just grind once it gets cold.
Grilled green rice tastes particularly good in instant use. To make it last long, for example in order to carry from Quang Ngai to Ho Chi Minh City, grilled green rice should be maintained in a tight box or plastic bags.
Sometimes, people take an extra step after grinding rice; it is to “chay” to make grilled green rice more brittle. To “chay” rice, they put it in a pot, roasting until it expands and gets more brittle. This kind of grilled green rice is actually not as tasty as ordinary grilled green rice, but it is likely to old people who teeth are gone.
Grilled green rice is indeed a speciality of Quang Ngai, especially Mo Duc grilled green rice. Although it is considered a common dish, but its flavor carries along people’s love. And if it was made by Quang Ngai mothers for their children, those children would be touched deeply every time they taste grilled green rice again.