Ordinary rice and glutinous (or sticky) rice are popular among the people of Asia. For Vietnamese, ordinary rice is the principal staple food while glutinous rice is for special occasions. However, ordinary rice is sometimes cooked in a special way to make it a special dish, whether to treat guests or to give some variation to the daily menu.
The Chinese have a very popular dish prepared with many colorful ingredients called Cantonese fried rice, but Vietnamese prefer to conserve the natural flavor of the rice. The rice steamed in lotus leaves is an example. Chefs say this dish originated from the old capital city of Hue where the lotus plant - a water lily native to Asia with large leaves and white and pink flowers - is grown widely. Originally, com la sen or steamed rice in lotus leaves, was prepared for the kings, lords and mandarins. Later, its recipe was known to the common people and it became a famous Vietnamese dish that is served in many big restaurants.
Many foreign tourists are fond of this dish because of its natural flavor and taste. The chief cook at Pho Co Restaurant, Le Hoang Long, remarked that it is difficult to keep the lotus scent with the cooked rice. The lotus seeds must be cooked well before mixing with the rice, and the lotus leaves used to wrap the rice must be fresh.
When steamed, the flavor of the seeds and scent of the leaves are absorbed by the rice. However, rice can be cooked first and then mixed with ingredients - minced pork paste, ham, shrimp, lotus seeds, vegetables, or onions and wrapped in lotus leaves. The whole pack is then steamed and is unwrapped when served to the diner with the rice on the lotus leaves. This helps keep the food hot. In addition, the dish is decorated with some petals of the lotus flower.
The success of the cooking largely depends on the skill of the cook. At Pho Co Restaurant, the lotus rice is known far and wide because it pleases the taste of foreign diners. Moreover, this dish is highly appreciated for its active effects on health as it contains many compounds that help reduce cholesterol and fatty acids, promote blood circulation and recovery to full health.