Use of rice


The value of rice, in Vietnamese’s opinion, can not and should be limited to the economic realm. Even though it is indeed a staple crop cultivated annually throughout the country, and plays a vital role in the survival of a substantial portion of the population, as well as for export, rice ranks higher than any ordinary food.
The mentioning of rice to any Vietnamese, particularly one that resides far from the homeland, raise the feelings of nostalgia and closeness. Part of what enhances such familiarity originates from the daily use of rice in meal preparation, notably lunch and dinner, when it is served, boiled or steamed, along with other sources of protein. Furthermore, similar to “com nam” (rice balls pressed to a cylinder-like form that deduces taking space in luggage – a traveller’s friend), rice has been a loyal companion to Vietnamese for a long time.
Apart from its historical significant, equivalent to the Western domestication of wheat and barley – which marked the beginning of civilization in general, rice also appeared in legends. It was employed by Hung King’s eighteenth son (more Vietnam’s Early History) in his invention of “banh chung” (a square-shaped cake consists of glutinous rice, pork and ground green beans) and “banh day” (a round-shaped cake made of glutinous rice) as offering for ancestors.
Until today, there is always a reserved place for them on the family altar at Tet or death anniversary, despite the introduction of more exotic cuisine by globalization. Rice is also taken for granted in Vietnamese daily life. For example, when someone asks whether his friend or family has eaten, he asks “Have you had rice yet?” (Anh da an com chua?)
Rice, therefore, brings a familiarity of home. As the saying goes, “rice is mother” (cơm tẻ mẹ ruột), it touches one’s heart with trust and welcoming warmth. It is perhaps a Vietnamese version of the idea “there’s no place like home”: embedded in the tiny, white grains is the history and cultural roots of an entire nation.