This content is also available in: Vietnamese
Since wet cultivation was adopted in the Northern delta thousands of years ago, rice has been a staple food of Vietnamese people. The dining table always offers rice as a meal’s foundation.
Rice is a staple food for Southeast Asian people. Not only served steamed, there are countless improvisations including Vietnamese vermicelli, phở threads, wrapped cakes, chưng cakes, tubed rice cakes or rice buns. It’s not an exaggeration to say that rice is “a vital part of Vietnamese life.”
While most families’ rice is stored in a chest or jar in a kitchen corner, at Gao Restaurant in Saigon, rice is on display in a more prominent place to verify its value for the guests. Each crystal jar of rice is classified according to its properties as well as its nurturing soil. Some types of rice are very rare and generally not available on the market, usually they are of different colours of green, red, purple or yellow.
A crucial part of “rice’s added value” is that when it is eaten in combination with various foods it does not lose its unique taste. The chefs at Gao Restaurant wrap cooked rice in lotus leaves to generate a mild flavor. Even seafood wrapped with lotus rice gains a pure sweet taste. Fried rice with shredded fish sauce takes two seemingly inconsequential ingredients and becomes a delicacy of flavors. Guests looking for health benefits indulge in herbal rice and crab.
For me, refined rice is still the top choice because it reminds me of my struggling subsidy times in the 1980s when a pot of refined rice was an untouchable privilege and luxury.
As our lives grow more hectic and affluent, the rise of fast food instead of traditional cooked rice in family meals has accelerated. Yet once you enter Gao Restaurant, your view is changed. The true value of rice in Vietnamese cuisine is promoted to fullest through every delicacy presented.