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Friday, May 6, 2011

Cơm Hến (Clams Cooked Rice)

Cơm Hến was a very popular low priced specialty dish used to be enjoyed by the commoners in Central Vietnam, Huế. But it's exquisite and wonderful texture and taste could not be kept hidden for long from those who crave for great food.  These days, people from many regions find cơm hến refreshing and simply irresistible. 

Cơm hến is simple yet an intricate dish that fuses together a variety of flavors from clams, fried pork fat, clam broth, roasted peanuts, crunchy rice cracker, chilli pepper, banana flower, star fruit or crisp, juicy and tart Granny Smith apples which make it perfect for cơm hến, mint herb, Vietnamese coriander (rau ram), bac ha (taro stem), fermented shrimp sauce and room temperature rice. These ingredients culminate in a distinctive balance of sweetness, saltiness, sourness,  and spiciness with  two separate crunchy textures.   It's sure to give your taste palate a workout! And once you've had a bowl, you couldn't help but ask for  more . . .      
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15 to 18 Servings


For Hến
4 cans of 51 oz  Clams, drained, keep the juice (available at Sam's Club and Costco)
1-2 tablespoons of minced Shallot
1-2 tablespoons of minced Garlic
1 diced Onion
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
a pinch of MSG, optional
For Broth
A can of Clam juice
2 Lemon Grass, clean, lightly pound them
1/2 teaspoon White or Black Pepper
For Sauce
4 tablespoons Fermented Shrimp Sauce (Mắm Ruốt)
2 cups  Clam Juice or Water
1 tablespoon Sugar
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 tablespoon of minced Shallot 
1 tablespoon of minced Garlic

Cooked rice, cooled to room temperature
Fried Pork Fat
Fried Shallots
Roasted Peanuts, chopped
4 Sesame Rice Paper, roasted (bánh tráng nướng), break into small pieces

5 Granny Smith Apples cut into small stripes, soak them into a bowl of salted water for about 1 minute to keep them from turning brown

1 bunch of Mints, chopped
1 bunch of Vietnamese Coriander (Rau Ram), chopped

3 Taro Stem, (Bac Ha), peeled and cut into small stripes

1 Banana Flower (Bắp Chuối), cut into half lenghtwise, then sliced, soak in water for 10 minutes, then drain.
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Prepare Hến

Heat 1 1/ 2 tablespoons of oil on a pan and saute shallots, garlic and onion. Once the mixture is slightly golden, add the clams, salt, sugar, pepper, a pinch of msg and paprika. Stir for another two minutes. Remove it from the heat.
Prepare Fried Pork Fat

Click here for Fried Pork Fat recipe
Prepare Sauce

Mix shrimp sauce with clam juice or water, sugar and paprika. Set aside.
In a small pan, saute the shallot and garlic. Once the mixture is slightly golden brown, pour the mixed shrimp sauce in. Remove it from heat when it starts to boil.
Prepare Clam Broth

In a pot, bring broth and lemon grass to boil. Remove from heat and add ground pepper. If used clams that doesn't come with clam juice, bring 2 cups of water and lemon grass to boil. Add fresh lived clams, a little bit of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes or when it's boiling again. Pour the broth in a bowl and add ground pepper. Set it aside.
Presentation of Cơm Hến

Cơm Hến is served with a little rice and lots of vegetables, herbs and fruit.  Place a just a little rice about 1/2 rice bowl to a large bowl. Place herbs, vegetables, rice cracker around a bowl. Add clams in the center. Top with fried pork fat, roasted peanut, fried shallots. Drizzle on some fermented shrimp sauce and clam broth.

Enjoy a savory bowl of Cơm Hến!


  1. I was so excited when I saw your blog entry for Com Hen. Your Com Hen has been legendary. Minh has only the greatest and fondest memories of the time you made it oh so long ago. I will definitely try your Com Hen recipe one of these weekends. I hope I can do it justice and have it turn out decent. Thank you for sharing your recipes with all.

  2. It's my pleasure. I actually made this dish a few months back and took some photos so that I can write up a recipe for you. This blog entry dedicated to you :-)I forgot to mention about it in this entry.

  3. Hi Annette, thank you for your recipe. I am not Vietnamese, but I love that dish. I did not realize that it has all kinds of additional vegetables, etc. with it. When I had it, it was only with the cracker and lime. --Francine

  4. Hi Francine,

    I think what you had was baby clams served with rice crackers as an appetizer rather than a meal. The dish I made is very authentic and not commonly served in most restaurants. You have to look in a specialty restaurant. In Vietnam, you most likely find it in the central city of Hue.

  5. Where can I buy the black sesame rice crackers

  6. You can buy the black sesame rice crackers at any asian supermarket. It comes in a pack of 4-6. Just put it in the microwave for about 1 minute on each side to roast it.

  7. Wonderful. Thanks, chi.

  8. Looks so so so tempting. I will definately try to make this dish one of these days. I really like the way you made the sauce, seemed so tasty and different from what I had had before. Please allow me to copy it down for later references. Thank you so much, Loan.

  9. Ms. Loan, Where are you? We miss your new blog. We hope you are ok.

  10. Hi Anh, I've been having problem with the internet at home, therefore, I am not able to do much work. But I will try to post a couple of recipes before this month's end. Thanks for thinking of me :-)

  11. Hello Annette,
    I was searching for a recipe and accidentally stumble upon your blog. I love the entries and the presentations of your food. I have to try the Che Troi nuoc one of these days, and I love mochi.


  12. Hello Loan,
    Com hen was my first attempt at trying your detailed recipes. It turned out really delicious. Thank you for posting it.

  13. Com Hen was featured in the Anthony Bourdain "No Reservations" show and I had to search for a recipe. Thank you for kindly posting this I am looking forward to preparing this delicious dish.