Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sweet fermented rice (cơm rượu)

I didn't try the rice pudding, or maybe I did, I can't remember! When I heard about the rice pudding as dessert, my reaction was quite strange - Dessert from rice?
Then I suddenly recall that we also have something sweet from rice, I wouldn't call it dessert but it's really sweet and now as a new trend, back to the tradition, at some Vietnamese restaurants we serve it as dessert, a speciality, especially to curious foreigners.

                      Sweet fermented rice 

I love this sweet fermented rice - cơm rượu (literally means alcoholic rice) since I was a young boy. I don't know why! Maybe because of the sweet taste, the irresistible smell that we never confuse with any others. I still remember the incident in my childhood - one morning after I secretly finished a whole bowl of this "cơm rượu", as my breakfast, I got... nearly drunk, fell asleep. And happily - no school!

                  Popular sweet fermented rice in southern style - cơm rượu

It's not difficult to prepare this sweet fermented rice, I guess. Cook the sticky rice. Mix it with the dry yeast. Cover and leave the mixture for few days until it's fermented, some white juice appears, strong, flavourful, sweet smell, then we need to store in the fridge otherwise it will turn to real strong rice wine.

I never tried but our housekeeper, she is very good at making "cơm rượu" and said - never do it in the rainy days, it will fail! And I wonder whether she added sugar or not, but the liquid - quite sweet. In southern style we roll this fermented rice into small balls, different from the northern style, there they prepare with different kind of glutinous rice and even created a delicious cocktail "yogurt mixed with red sticky rice" (but not fermented!)

                  Fermented rice of southern style served with green mung bean sticky rice from North.  

Interesting that we eat sweet cơm rượu in southern style together with sticky rice mixed with green mung bean in northern style (xôi vò). It's  quite unique combination of two dishes from north and south. We can find many stalls in the street, selling this "cơm rượu, xôi vò".  

                Another kind of fermented rice from North - red sticky rice (nếp cẩm or nếp than) 

Talking about this fermented rice as dessert, I suddenly remember - one day I had a dinner with Japanese guests, I convinced them to try as I thought both countries having same rice culture, so they may like it. Especially the taste is quite similar to sake (?!), but to my surprise - they couldn't taste "cơm rượu", even they found it quite disgusting! Probably because of the rice texture - too soft as a residue or the juice - too sweet (sugar added !?). So I failed to be the ambassador for our traditional sweet alcoholic rice! But...I think they might like the red sticky rice as the taste is much better and the rice texture - harder. 

               Sweet fermented sticky rice in northern style 

             It's quite unique cocktail - a mixture of yogurt and red sticky rice in Hanoi

It's not very clear how to define and categorise "cơm rượu". Is it a sweet soup (chè) ? or is it a kind of desserts? I probably don't need an answer. To me, it's simply a good sweets when the alcohol taste is not too strong and the smell is quite attractive for a good "snack". By the way, when I was kid I was told that if eating this fermented rice in the morning would help to clean up the internal system from those worms inside us (because they get drunk!!!). Is it truth ? Leave it with you!


  1. Your sweet fermented rice like me Thai dessert. I write recipe and how to do. I like taste and very delicious when in my mouth.

  2. Try some fermented cassava.


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