The Broken Lion! Saba’s Cơm Tấm Burger

Saba of @sabablacksheep puts together an interesting reconstruction of the classic Vietnamese dish cơm tấm bì sườn chả trứng

​So in this post today I’m not sharing a recipe with you. Sorry about that.  I just want to share with you one of my cooking stories. I hope it can inspire you to have fun and be creative in the kitchen. – Saba

Cooking is an essential part of life. We cook so we can we eat. We eat, so we can live. I guess it’s as simple as that.  So if we have to do it why not enjoy it?
Some of us are really good at it, and find it enjoyable. Some of us just hate it. But love or hate it, one time or another we will find ourselves in the kitchen when we really don’t want to be there.

For those that don’t know me, I’ll tell you a bit about myself. I don’t like cooking, I really don’t. I love cooking!!

For the most part I can’t wait to get into the kitchen, but I’m just like most of you, I work a full time job. So after a long day’s work, cooking dinner can feel like a chore.

​Lucky for me I only need to cook for one. Actually I tell a lie, I need to cook for one and a half  (the little furry four legged guy needs to eat too)
So during the week days  I tend to cook meals that I will have left overs so the next day I won’t need to cook again.
Sometimes the left overs actually taste better the next day, say like a curry or something like that.

Now I hate wasting food, (I really do!) so I won’t throw anything away, but after multiple days of eating the same thing I can start to get over it.
It’s on those days that I get a bit creative and that’s when I have the most fun in the kitchen.
So the other day was one of those days, as I had been eating pork chop on broken rice for a few days straight.


For those who are not familiar with this dish it’s a very popular Vietnamese dish which in Vietnamese is called  “cơm tấm bì sườn chả trứng
So a marinated pork chop (sườn) is served on top a bed of broken rice (cơm tấm) accompanied by some shredded pork and pork skin () with a slice of pork loaf  (chả) and then topped with a fried egg (trứng) !  It is usually served with some fresh slices of tomato and cucumber and of course a bowl of Vietnamese dipping sauce nước chấm.

Broken rice is made up of fragments of rice that break off during the harvest, milling or transport of the rice. A pleasant consequence of grains being broken is that they are an irregular shape and size. Thus it has a softer texture and cooks quicker. In the old days the broken rice would be sold as a lesser quality for no other reason than it not looking as a appealing as non-broken rice. As such it would be widely consumed by the poorer class. But these days it is mainstream and eaten by all classes of people, even preferred by many. Including yours truly.


Lion Brand Broken Rice

As much as I love the dish after 3 days of eating it, I had had enough. However I still had 2 chops, some shredded pork and a bit of cooked rice left over.  Looking at it in the fridge I really didn’t want to eat it again. To tell you the truth I was thinking about popping out and grabbing a dirty burger. I’m a big cheese burger fan!

Anyway I couldn’t convince myself into letting it go to waste. So I grabbed it out of the fridge, put it on the bench and just looked at it for a while. It was like staring into the abyss.  All through the time I was staring at it the thought of a cheese burger kept running through my mind.

Then I had the light bulb moment.  Let’s turn it into a cheese burger!  Well a cheese burger of sorts anyway.  Then I had a moment of self-doubt.  I thought, but cheese won’t go well with these flavours. I almost gave up right there and then. There was no way I was making a burger without cheese right.

So I sat back and though about it for a while.

How could I make this happen? 

What am I going to make the bun from?

Well that was a no brainer I was going to use the rice for that.

The meat patty was always going to be the pork chop.

Fried egg? Yep it’s a must!

What about some pickles? I don’t think the flavour would work real well. But you can’t have a burger without pickles right? And I love pickles in my burgers.  Err the predicament I get myself into…

Well I love nước chấm too and I still got some cucumber left, so let’s pickle them in the nước chấm. Why not, why not indeed!

Ketchup? What sauce will I use? The nước chấm of course! But how could I incorporate this into a burger. It’s a very thin runny sauce, so unlike ketchup which is thick I couldn’t just put a dollop on the top. I could thicken it I guess??

Then it struck me like a lightning bolt through the back of my head.    I screamed out “Cheeseous Christ!!  My cooking god, that’s it!!!”  nước chấm cheese. I know what you’re all thinking, this guy is cray z!! What does he mean nước chấm cheese?

But just stick with me here, let me explain to you my idea.  

My idea was to make mock cheese.  I would use some agar agar to set the nước chấm into a slice of mock cheese.  It would have a similar texture and the right shape, and the flavour would be perfect for this dish! Perfect. ​


Agar is a setting agent derived from algae

Agar is a setting agent like gelatine. However it is derived from algae so it’s a great vegan substitute, but the reason I used it in this application was not because it was vegan but because it has a much higher melting temperature then gelatine. Thus it would not melt inside a warm burger.

So in one fowl swoop I killed two birds with the one stone! I had the cheese element I so wanted on my burger and also solved the sauce issue.

I was really excited now!

So I set off to make my wanna be burger. First off, I sliced the cucumber and let them swim in the nước chấm for a while.
I then preceded to made the mock nước chấm cheese, Rolled the rice into the bun shapes and toasted them in a pan, fried the egg and it was time to put this bad boy together.

Now my dreaded left overs became a new fun and exciting dish!!

Oh by the way I named my burger The Broken Lion!!! ​

Check out Saba’s amazing work here!
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Don’t forget to catch up on Saba’s other posts!
Guest Blogger: An Interview with Saba of @sabablacksheep
Recipe: Asian Style Surf ‘N’ Turf

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