What is Vietnamese Green Rice?

Vietnamese Green Rice (cốm) is a traditional delicacy deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture. Here’s all you need to know about Vietnamese Green Rice: its origins, how to make it, and its use in Vietnamese cuisine.

What is Vietnamese Green Rice?

Vietnamese Green Rice, known locally as “cốm,” is a special type of rice made from young glutinous rice grains. Unlike familiar white rice, Green Rice is characterized by its green color, which comes from soaking the rice with the juice of young rice plant leaves. Vietnamese Green Rice can be made from any type of glutinous rice, but the best quality is said to be made from “Yellow Flower sticky rice.”

Vietnamese Green Rice is not merely a type of food; it is a symbol of tradition and festivals in Vietnam, as well as the strong connection between the Vietnamese people and their rice cultivation heritage. Every grain of Vietnamese Green Rice carries the fresh flavor of young milk and its distinctive aroma. Therefore, it is considered the number one specialty of Hanoi to bring back as gifts for relatives and friends when traveling.

Dried Vietnamese Green Rice
Dried green rice

The origin

There is no concrete research about the origin of Cốm. However, there is a very famous story about the tradition of making Cốm in Vòng village. One day, dating back a thousand years ago, as the rice fields were ripening and the rice plants bent gracefully, a sudden storm swept through, causing the river to overflow and submerge the rice paddies. Crops were lost everywhere, and a sense of despair filled the air.

Those who couldn’t bear to see their months of hard work go to waste immediately headed to the fallen rice fields, plucking young rice grains to bring home and dry as a means to ward off hunger. Fortunately, the fruit of their efforts not only saved the village from starvation but also brought them a delicious, sweet, sticky and fragrant dish. As a result, every year when the rice begins to ripen, the people of Vòng village harvest the rice to enjoy this delightful snack.

I am not entirely sure if this story is 100% correct, but I find it believable. Cốm is traditionally made in the fall season in Northern Vietnam. This is also the active time for typhoons in Northern Vietnam (e.g., Typhoon Son Tinh, Tropical Depression 22W, and Typhoon Parma). So, it’s very likely that Vietnamese people in Northern Vietnam have learned how to preserve the young green rice after the typhoon destroyed their precious rice.

How Vietnamese Green Rice is made

The process of making Vietnamese Green Rice involves many steps to transfer from unripe sticky rice grains to a yellow-green rice flakes. Depending on the harvest time of glutinous rice, we have different types of Vietnamese Green Rice, such as early, mid, or late-season Green Rice. Early-season Green Rice has a sweet taste, with thin and soft grains. People in Hanoi often eat it with bananas. Mid-season Green Rice grains start to become harder and are commonly used to make Green Sticky Rice Patties. Late-season Green Rice grains are quite thick and large, slightly hard to eat, but have a richer flavor. They’re commonly used in making different Vietnamese sweet soups.

First, the glutinous rice is harvested, then the grains are separated from the husks, and any impurities are removed by washing them with water. Only the plump grains are selected. After this preparation, the rice is placed in a cast iron pan for roasting. It’s important not to use charcoal for roasting because the high heat can be detrimental. Instead, wood is used to control the fire. Initially, the fire is kept at a moderate level, and when the rice grains turn slightly white, the heat is reduced. During the roasting process, the rice must be constantly stirred to ensure even heating.

Once the rice is thoroughly roasted, it is allowed to cool before being pounded in a mortar in batches. Depending on the rice’s level of maturity, pounding and sifting may need to be repeated from 5 to 8 times to achieve the desired consistency. Finally, it is sifted again to remove any remaining rice grains, typically about 3 more times.

Where is the best place to buy Cốm?

There are two most famous villages for making green rice in Vietnam: Vòng village and Mễ Trì village. Vòng village has a long history of making green rice and is recorded in the “Đồng Khánh dư địa chí” compiled by Triều Đồng Khánh in 1886 – 1888, mentioning “驛望又有青嫩糯米”. “驛望” means “Dich Vong”, which is the old name of Vong village. “青嫩糯米” is “thanh nộn nhu mễ”, meaning Green Young Sticky Rice. This indicates that Vong village has been making green rice since at least the mid-19th century. Meanwhile, the craft of making green rice only appeared in Me Tri around the early 20th century. However, both Vòng and Me Tri green rice have equivalent high quality nowadays.

The Art of Wrapping Green Rice

After obtaining the final green rice, farmers wrap it in two layers of leaves. The inner layer consists of banana leaves to prevent the rice from drying out and losing its green color. The outer layer consists of lotus leaves to impart their distinctive fragrance to the rice.

Through an elaborate making process, Vietnamese green rice is finally served in two types: fresh and dried. Fresh rice is soft and sweet, while the dried one becomes very hard flakes.


Fresh green rice should not be kept for long. In damp weather, it can become moldy, while in dry conditions, it can turn hard, losing its addictive chewiness. Moreover, there’s no need for any extra seasoning or preparation, unlike other dishes. Therefore, enjoying it in early autumn is a pleasure when visiting Hanoi. Although there are still some street stalls all year round, the flavor of autumn’s green rice would be the best.

Dried green rice can be preserved for a longer period, usually 6 months to 1 year. Keep it in a cool, dry place and avoid direct sunlight.

Recipes with Vietnamese Green Rice

As a perfect local gift from Hanoi, Vietnamese Green Rice is used to make many delicious dishes. Here are several good foods you should try:

  • “Xôi cốm” or Vietnamese Green Sticky Rice, includes green rice and glutinous rice, topped with grated coconut.
Vietnamese green rice

Xôi cốm wrapped in lotus leaf
Vietnamese Green Rice Meatballs
Chả cốm or Vietnamese Green Rice Meatballs

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