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Vietnamese Recipes – Iconic, Rustic and Tempting Cooked Rice with Baby Clams (not Mussle or Oyster) (Hue Citadel Cuisine) – Com Hen

Ingredients:

Fresh baby clam (Hen, tuoi)
2 Kilograms
Ordinary rice (not Sticky rice)
400 Grams
Fried pork skin
50 Grams
Peanut
150 Grams
Caramola, slighly sour
2
Taro stem (Doc mung)
200 Grams
Banana flower
Water spinach
Bean sprouts
Salad
Vietnamese herbs
Onions
Ginger
Lime juice
Chili
Shrimp paste (Mam tom)
Seasoning powder
Vegetable oil

Preparation mode:

1/a/Rinse rice with water. Cook them to a rolling boil and set them aside to cool down.

b/Preheat a saucepan over a medium heat with thin layer of vegetable oil. Put all peanuts into this pan and roast them for 20 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant.

c/Wash carambola with water, trim away their edges and slice them into thin pieces.

d/Cut pork skin into bite-sized portions and gradually put them into a heating pan filled with cooking oil. Stir-fry them until golden crisp and perfection. Ladle them out of the pan and let them drained off on paper towels.

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2/a/Briefly clean herbs with water and let them air dried on a basket.

b/Slice onions and gingers thinly.

c/Discard the fibre of taro stems to remove their bitter flavour and acridity. Slice them into thin strips and rub them off with a pinch of salt to dehydrate them. Finally, briefly wash them with water once again. Bring a small pot to a boil and put all taro stems into this pot. Cook them through for 15 minutes and transfer them into a dish. Squeeze all remaining water out of your cooked taro stems by your hands worn a pair of plastic gloves.

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3/Fresh baby clams are soaked in water to remove any dirty materials retained in their shells.

-Remember to add into 1tsp. of salt while cooking them over a medium heat.

-Set clams and broth aside. Marinade clams with 1tbsp. of fish sauce to ramp up their flavour.

-Preheat a flat bottom wok with vegetable oil. Stir-fry dried shallots until fragrant and then put all clams onto the wok. Do not overcook because they will become shrink and tough. After 5-7 minutes stirring frequently, remove them from the heat and scoop them out into a small bowl.

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4/a/When it comes to your clams broth, filter them through a fine screen to discard any residue. Simmer them over a medium heat. Add 1tsp. of shrimp paste, a bouillon cube or mushroom stock and a sliced ginger to season the clams broth.

b/Spoon out a bowlful of cooked rice. Top it up by some herbs, crispy pork skin and fried baby clams. Ladle out your clam broth on top of the mixture and sprinkle some roast peanuts. So, that is it and they are ready to serve.

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Footnotes:

How to serve:

Yield: for 4 persons.

It had been rumoured that "Com hen" used to be consumed mostly by commoners in Hue citadel in the old days. Their exquisite and excellent texture would leave a lasting impression on any foreigners in the first time they taste them. Simply says that they are irresistible for everyone from different regions and countries (of course you have to find the right baby clams which share the same characteristics of the ones found in many fishing village around Hue). Such an intricate dish fuses a plethora of ingredients together: clams, fried pork fat, crunchy peanuts or rice crackers, Vietnamese herbs (banana flowers, taro stems, coriander, chili, star fruit or carambola), fermented shrimp paste and many more to add into. I can say it would work up your appetite to a whole new level about food expertise of Central Vietnam especially when you first come to visit Hue citadel - the imperial city of Vietnamese food culture. "Com hen" has worked their ways to many foodstalls and restaurants in Saigon but my guess would that their quality are nowhere close to the originality you find in Hue.

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