Honestly, there is nothing as fulfilling as properly cooked, home-made food. With the aromas wafting through kitchen air, you know full well that it will permeate through your pores in a few hours. The idea of food cooked with purpose – nay, with love (however corny that is) is enough to know that, with the best intentions, this food is going to be damn good.
Com dia (image), or “rice plate,” is a Vietnamese dish composed of only a few essentials – rice (obviously), something pickled, meat (or, in my case, meat substitute), and vegetables (usually lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber). The simplistic flavors of the dish is then fully realized through the sweet fish sauce (nuoc mam) in a symphony of tantalizing tastes. Savory, sweet, sour, salty. Delicate, crunchy, chewy. All your senses and textures are realized in one bite.
Whereas, I feel, other Vietnamese cuisine is overly complicated by the building of multiple layers of flavors upon one another (resulting in massive time spent in the kitchen), waiting for the first seasoning to permeate before adding more, com dia can easily be whipped up in half an hour to hour – with a little prep work, of course- and easily feed 15 +. Certainly, the recipe can be reduced – but my family was able to feed that many with a lot more left over.
The dish’s simplistic nature is outright and to the point – simple ingredients, prepared well, become harmonious.
I’m not pressuring you to go out to your local Vietnamese restaurant and order this amazing dish, but, damn it. You’ll be rewarded with one of the simplest and humble foods that the Vietnamese cuisine has to offer. Not into simplicity or being humbled? Throw in some lobster tails and wine (we did!). The basics of com dia is neither limited nor hard to alter. Change your proportions of the ingredients to cater to those feasting on your meal – meat eater? Great! Eat an entire plate worth of the bbq’d meat and sauce with a bit of lettuce to feel better. If you’re like me, fill half your plate with pickled goodness (especially pickled cucumbers) and round it out with brown/white rice.
Oh. And lastly, did I tell you, it’s friggin’ amazing?