Cơm Tấm (Vietnamese Broken Rice)

This iconic Southern Vietnamese dish is piled high with grilled and shredded pork, pork-and-egg meatloaf, fresh and pickled veggies, and a tangy-sweet sauce.

Overhead view of Vietnamese Broken Rice

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Why This Recipe Works

  • Using fatty pork shoulder or pork butt ensures that the meat won't dry out during grilling.
  • Soaking the pork skin in warm water gets rid of any residual fat and blood, for a cleaner appearance and softer texture.
  • Adding lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and pickled vegetables provides a balancing counterpoint to a hearty meal.

For Vietnamese, rice is life! Vietnamese eat rice from breakfast to lunch and dinner, and even dessert, albeit in different forms. Growing up in Vietnam, I do not remember a single day that my family skipped rice. The phrase for having a meal, ăn cơm, translates to "eating rice"—Vietnamese history and food culture revolve around it. 

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As one of the world’s leading rice exporters, Vietnam exported 6.4 million tons of rice in 2021, according to the USDA. But much of what Vietnam sends to the rest of the world are perfect rice grains, not the broken rice, or cơm tấm, Vietnamese love so much. Broken rice are the grains damaged during the drying and milling process, which, outside of Vietnam, are generally considered inferior to intact ones. Among the Vietnamese, however, the feeling is much different and demand for broken rice is so high that some manufacturers will manually break rice grains just to produce enough. While broken rice by itself tastes no different from regular whole rice grains, it does have a couple advantages: Thanks to their smaller size, the broken grains cook faster and soak up sauces and flavors better. 

Historically, rice farmers in the rural Mekong Delta kept broken rice both as animal feed and for their own meals. Broken rice was originally served with just two ingredients: bì (shredded pork skin) and mỡ hành (scallion oil), and was often stigmatized as peasant food. As people from the Mekong Delta moved to Saigon after 1975 for better job opportunities, they introduced broken rice to the city dwellers. Since then, broken rice has become one of southern Vietnam’s most iconic foods, available from street carts and sidewalk vendors, and there are even restaurants dedicated to this popular dish.

Growing up in Vietnam, I do not remember a single day that my family skipped rice.

Nowadays, broken rice has evolved from its humble beginnings; these days you’ll see it dressed with fancier cuts of meat and topped with many delicious add-ons. Besides shredded pork skin, you can choose from popular options such as grilled pork chop (thịt sườn nướng), grilled pork (thịt nướng), grilled pork paste (nem nướng), grilled chicken (gà nướng), steamed pork-and-egg meatloaf (chả trứng hấp), or a sunny-side-up fried egg. The whole plate is topped with scallion oil, pickled vegetables, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and a tangy-sweet fish sauce dressing drizzled over everything. Some places serve a bowl of pork broth to slurp along with the broken rice.

My favorite combination is grilled pork, shredded pork, and pork-and-egg meatloaf. Choose what your taste buds fancy, or go all-out with a special that includes everything on the menu.

The Main Event: How to Cook Broken Rice

Using a rice cooker is an almost foolproof method of cooking rice to obtain those perfect fluffy and sticky grains. Before cooking, I wash the excess starches of the rice with running water until it is no longer cloudy, which helps prevent the grains from excessively sticking to each other once cooked. Then, with a 1:1 ratio of broken rice to water, I put it all in the rice cooker and let it work its magic.

If you don't have a rice cooker, you can of course also cook the rice on the stovetop, which this recipe also provides instructions for.

Component 1: Grilled Pork

For the grilled meat, I like to use pork butt, which has more fat and tends to be juicy after grilling compared to leaner cuts like the loin. Have your butcher slice the meat about 1/8-inch-thick so that it is easier to marinate and grill. The marinade is a simple mixture of fish sauce, water, sugar, freshly ground pepper, and vegetable oil, along with my favorite aromatics of shallot, scallion, and garlic. Marinate the meat overnight, or up to 24 hours, before grilling.

Pork Skewers on the grill

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You will need six to eight 8-inch wooden skewers to thread the pork, and it's best to soak them in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from burning during grilling.

I like to cook the skewers over a two-zone fire, in which the grill has burning-hot coals on one side but not the other. This way, you can sear the pork first directly over the coals to get some good browning and flavor development, then move them to the cooler side to finish cooking without the risk of them burning.

Component 2: Shredded Pork and Pork Skin

What I love about this topping is the textural contrast between the chewy pork skin and crisp-tender meat. Store-bought shredded pork skin is made from skin with the fat removed that is then boiled and sliced super thin. You can make your own pork skin, but I prefer the convenience of premade options widely available at Asian supermarkets. 

The pork skin itself is pleasingly chewy, and it's tossed with pork butt that's been simmered until cooked-through and tender, then crisped in a hot pan and cut into matchsticks. Both the sliced pork and pork skin are mixed with minced garlic and toasted rice powder (thính), the latter lending an earthy, nutty aroma and pleasing grittiness to the pork and skin.

Component 3: Steamed Pork-and-Egg Meatloaf

Dubbed as “Vietnamese meatloaf,” chả trứng hấp is a humble dish made from ground pork, cellophane noodles, wood ear mushrooms, shallot, scallion, fish sauce, sugar, and freshly ground pepper. Other proteins that work great with this recipe include ground chicken, shrimp, and crabmeat. Soak both the cellophane noodles and wood ear mushrooms in warm water for 15 minutes to rehydrate before incorporating them with the other ingredients. 

Overhead view of egg topped meatloaf

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South Vietnamese steam the mixture, while north Vietnamese pan-fry it. Baking it or cooking it in a pressure cooker are other options. If you do not own a dedicated steamer, fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water, put a wire rack inside with the loaf pan rested on top, cover with a vented lid, and proceed with steaming. The whole mixture is suspended in beaten egg whites, steamed for 25 minutes, topped with beaten egg yolks, and steamed for another 5 minutes, resulting in two beautiful, distinctive layers.

Assembling and Eating

Serving the broken rice and toppings goes something like this: fill small bowls with the cooked broken rice, then invert the rice onto a plate. It should hold a domed shape once the bowl is removed. Next to the rice dome you can assemble the toppings. The grilled pork should still be warm, the meatloaf is good just slightly warm, and shredded pork mixture can be room temperature or slightly warm. 

Side angle view of a plate of Broken Rice

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Then drizzle the scallion oil over the rice, the grilled pork, and the shredded pork. Add a few pieces of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber next to the meat, and serve it with the dipping sauce and pickled vegetables on the side.

Recipe Details

Cơm Tấm (Vietnamese Broken Rice)

Prep 50 mins
Cook 2 hrs
Marinating Time 8 hrs
Total 10 hrs 50 mins
Serves 8 servings

This iconic Southern Vietnamese dish is piled high with grilled and shredded pork, pork-and-egg meatloaf, fresh and pickled veggies, and a tangy-sweet sauce.


For the Grilled Pork:

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) warm water

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) fish sauce

  • 1/4 cup (50g) sugar

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil

  • 1/4 cup (30g) chopped shallot (about 1 large shallot)

  • 1/4 cup (30g) sliced scallions (white and green parts)

  • 2 tablespoons (24g) chopped garlic ( about 3 cloves)

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 680g) skin-on, boneless pork butt, thinly sliced 1/8-inch thick (see note)

  • 8-inch wooden skewers, soaked for 30 minutes before threading to prevent burning

For the Pork-and-Egg Meatloaf:

  • 1 ounce (30g) cellophane noodles, preferably made from mung beans

  • 1/2 ounce (16g) wood ear mushrooms

  • 3 large eggs, separated

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) fish sauce

  • 1/2 tablespoon (12g) sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 12 ounces (344g) ground pork

  • 1/4 cup (30g) finely chopped shallot  (about 2 shallots)

  • 2 tablespoons (15g) sliced scallions (green parts only)

For the Shredded Pork:

  • 12 ounces (340g) boneless, skinless pork butt, halved

  • 3 1/2 ounces (99g) packaged fresh or frozen shredded pork skin, such as Bì Heo Tươi Tây Hồ brand, completely thawed, (see note)

  • 2 teaspoons (6g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, divided

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons (25g) minced garlic (about 3 cloves)

  • 1 tablespoon (9g) store-bought (such as Thính Saigon brand) or homemade roasted rice powder (if homemade, follow the linked recipe but using jasmine rice in place of glutinous rice; see note)

For the Broken Rice:

  • 3 cups (600g) broken jasmine rice, such as Three Ladies or Parrot brand

  • 3 cups (720 ml) water

For the Drizzling Sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup (90ml) warm water

  • 1/4 cup (50g) sugar

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) fish sauce, plus more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) fresh lime juice

  • 1 tablespoon (12g) chopped garlic (about one and a half cloves)

  • 1 bird’s eye chile, thinly sliced (optional)

For the Scallion Oil:

  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) scallions (green parts only)

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

To Assemble and Serve:

  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers, sliced

  • 2 tomatoes, sliced

  • 1 head butter lettuce, washed and leaves separated 

  • Pickled carrot and daikon, for serving

  • Pickled leeks, for serving (see note)


  1. For the Grilled Pork: In a large mixing bowl, combine water, fish sauce, sugar, and vegetable oil and whisk until sugar has dissolved. Add shallot, scallion, garlic, and pepper to the bowl. Add pork to the marinade and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

    Overhead view of pork marinating in a bowl

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  2. When ready to grill, thread marinated pork on soaked skewers. Light 1 chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to high. Cover and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate.

    Overhead view of marinated pork on skewers

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  3. Set skewers over coals or burners and cook until lightly browned on both sides, about 2 minutes. Move meat to cooler side of grill and cook, turning frequently and basting meat with the marinade, until cooked through and no pink remains, 12 to 15 minutes; stop basting about 5 minutes before the end of cooking time to avoid contamination with raw meat juices. Set aside and keep warm.

    Two image collage of pork skewers on the grill and being basted with marinade

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  4. Meanwhile, for the Pork-and-Egg Meatloaf: In a small bowl, soak cellophane noodles in 2 cups warm water for 15 minutes. Drain softened noodles, blot dry with paper towels to remove any excess water, then use kitchen shears to cut them into 1-inch strands. Set aside.

    Two image collage of noodles being soaked and cut with scissors

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  5. Meanwhile, in another small bowl, soak wood ear mushrooms in 1 cup warm water for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse them thoroughly; squeeze out any excess moisture, then blot dry on paper towels. Discard any tough stems. Chop into roughly 1/4-inch pieces, and set aside.

    Overhead view of mushrooms roughly chopped on a cutting board

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  6. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until bubbly but still liquidy, about 1 minute. Whisk in fish sauce, sugar, and pepper. Mix in ground pork, cellophane noodles, wood ear mushrooms, shallots, and scallions until thoroughly combined.

    Overhead view of mixing pork, egg, noodles, and seasonings in a bowl

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  7. Line a 4- by 7-inch loaf pan or round ceramic baking dish with parchment paper (choose whichever vessel will best fit inside a steamer setup). Spoon in pork mixture, pressing down to pack tightly. Place a steamer over a saucepan of vigorously boiling water. Transfer meatloaf mixture to steamer, cover, and steam at medium-high heat until meatloaf is puffed and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 minutes.

    Overhead view of meatloaf being flattened and placed into a steamer

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  8. Beat egg yolks lightly in a bowl. Open lid of steamer and pour egg yolks on top of meatloaf. Cover and steam until yolk is set, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Remove meatloaf from heat and set aside. Let cool for at least 1 hour (cutting into the meatloaf while still hot may make it fall apart). When ready to serve, unmold meat loaf and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

    Two image collage of adding egg to meatloaf in steamer and meatloaf being removed

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  9. For the Shredded Pork: In a medium bowl, soak shredded pork in just enough warm water to cover for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain thoroughly. Squeeze out as much water as possible. Spread pork skin out on a tray lined with paper towels to absorb excess moisture.

    Overhead view of shredded pork skin

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  10. In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups (710ml) water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt and stir to dissolve. Add pork butt and cook until meat thermometer registers 145°F (63°C) in the center of the thickest part, about 20 minutes. Remove from pan and plunge into a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

    Two image collage of pork butt cooking in pot and then being dunked in an ice bath

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  11. In a 10-inch stainless-steel skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sear pork butt on all sides until a nice brown crust forms, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, slice pork into matchsticks. In a large bowl, combine pork matchsticks, pork skin, garlic, roasted rice powder, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and mix well. Set aside.

    Two image collage of pork butt browned in pan and then shredded and combined with pork skin on a plate

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  12. For the Broken Rice: Rinse broken rice with cold water until no longer cloudy, then drain. In a rice cooker, combine 3 cups of water with rinsed broken rice and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Alternatively, to cook on the stovetop, in a large 4- or 5-quart pot, combine water and rinsed rice and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let rice rest, covered, for 10 minutes, then uncover pot and fluff rice to allow excess moisture to escape. Keep warm.

    Overhead view of fluffing rice

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  13. For the Drizzling Sauce: In a medium bowl, combine water, sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice and mix until sugar has dissolved. Stir in garlic and chile. Set aside.

    Overhead view of adding garlic and chiles to vingear

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  14. For the Scallion Oil: In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine scallion, oil, salt, and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 60 seconds. Remove wrap and mix well.

    Overhead view of scallion oil

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  15. To Assemble and Serve: Remove grilled pork from skewers. Divide rice onto serving plates. Arrange warm grilled pork (on or off skewer, as desired), slightly warm sliced pork-and-egg meatloaf, and shredded pork around rice. Drizzle scallion oil over rice and meat. Add lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber next to meat. Serve with drizzling sauce, pickled vegetables, and pickled leeks on the side.

    Overhead view of finished platter of broken rice with all elements

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Special Equipment

Rice cooker, steamer, 4- by 7-inch loaf pan or round ceramic baking dish, 8-inch wooden skewers


If you have trouble finding a butcher to slice the pork butt thinly for you, try the butcher at a Vietnamese or Chinese market, as this is not an uncommon request for them. To slice your own, freeze the pork butt until partially frozen, then slice thinly with a very sharp knife.

You can make your own roasted rice powder using this Thai recipe, but note that Vietnamese use uncooked jasmine rice instead of the glutinous rice called for in the Thai version. For store-bought roasted rice powder, look for brand Thính Saigon in market's seasoning section.

Pre-packaged pork skin can be found in the refrigerated or frozen section at Asian supermarkets. If you cannot find pre-packaged pork skin, you can make your own using this recipe.

Pickled leeks taste similar to pickled ramps and can be found at Asian supermarkets in glass jars in the canned food section.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Since this recipe has multiple components, marinate the pork, prepare the drizzling sauce, and cook the pork-egg meatloaf the day before. On the day of, make the shredded pork, scallion oil, cook the rice, and grill the marinated pork.

The drizzling sauce can be made 2 days ahead and diluted with water if it thickens in the fridge. 

The pork-egg meatloaf can be made 2 days ahead and rewarmed in the microwave or re-steamed.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
757 Calories
42g Fat
54g Carbs
41g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 757
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 42g 54%
Saturated Fat 12g 59%
Cholesterol 193mg 64%
Sodium 1839mg 80%
Total Carbohydrate 54g 20%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 20g
Protein 41g
Vitamin C 23mg 113%
Calcium 134mg 10%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 1041mg 22%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)