'Amazing Race Australia': Here's Why That Green Rice Caused A Stream Of Tears And Vomit
Compared to boot camps, whitewater rafting and flyboarding, eating a bit of rice seems fairly easy... right?
After landing in Hanoi, taking in a water puppet show, making their way to Ninh Binh and either collecting 100 snails or foot-rowing their way across a river, one member from each 'Amazing Race' duo had to sit down for some lunch.
Local restaurant Lãng Khanh had prepared 300 parcels of green new rice (cốm) with just nine of the banana-leaf wrapped packages containing a coin that the teams needed to find in order to receive their next clue.
Mikayla and Hayley were the first team to arrive, with birthday girl Miky feeling lucky that they'd be done with the Road Block in no time.
Her face soon dropped after taking her first bite of the local delicacy, declaring it was "the driest thing I've ever eaten in my life" and her optimism soon turned to sheer misery as she opened not five, ten or even 15 more parcels but...
23 PARCELS OF RICE!
While some teams were lucky enough to find a package containing a coin immediately (hello footy mates and newlyweds!), the eating challenge proved to be nearly impossible for Mikayla, Jerome and Chris (who all spewed) and poor Amani who wept the entire time.
Did we mention some of the parcels were laced with chunks of chilli?
Even Viv, who is of Vietnamese descent, declared between mouthfuls to her brother Joey that, "this challenge sucks".
Having not tried the rice ourselves here at 10 daily, we couldn't quite understand why something that looked pretty tasty to us was causing the teams such strife.
So we decided to consult an expert and gave 'My Market Kitchen' and 'MasterChef' favourite Khanh Ong a call for the low-down on the northern Vietnamese dish.
"Oh my god," he said when we explained that someone had eaten 23 packages of cốm.
"The reason that they struggled so much is, it’s not something that you eat in big quantities.
"So usually what you would do is buy one and you’ll either share it with someone or just have it as a snack and you’ll be very, very full," Khanh said.
Khanh explained that the dish is fragrant and sweet but also basically "just straight starch", and the roasted, unripened rice is "very dry" which makes it difficult to eat in large quantities.
"It’s supposed to be little finger-fuls, you’re not meant to be smashing it -- it’s a snack, and like any snack, you can’t just keep eating it, you’ll just die," he laughed.
So how many would Khanh be able to get through?
"I would not be able to eat 23 packets!" he exclaimed.
"I would probably get to two or three and say, 'This is delicious' and then by number five I'd be like, 'Okay, I reckon I need to go home or take a Fast Track or Detour because this is not happening any more'".
The History Of Cốm
Not to be confused with cơm (regular, matured rice), the name of yellow-y green cốm has a different accent, and therefore pronunciation.
The fragrant dish is beloved among locals in northern Vietnam because its seasonality and smell evokes strong memories of autumn, and its origin story has been told for generations (one village has been making for at least 700 years).
"So the history is, there was a major flood or storm that was about to hit and people were going to lose their crops so they picked the rice early to save them from, well, starving to death," Khanh told 10 daily.
"So they said, ‘Okay we’re just going to have to cook this green rice’ and, I don’t know if that’s completely true but that’s the legend that’s always been told," he added.
How To Eat It
We're here to tell you that you should absolutely not get scared off cốm after watching 'The Amazing Race Australia' but rather take care to just have a few small bites.
While the contestants were washing down the dish with Vietnamese coffee, Khanh said he's normally paired it with some green tea instead.
He also confirmed the pieces of chilli that were hidden in some of the packages are definitely not a traditional aspect of the dish and were probably included to make 'The Amazing Race' challenge that bit trickier.
While you won't find cốm at many Vietnamese restaurants or stores in Australia, Khanh said it's definitely available.
"I’ve had it here but I think it’s a very Vietnamese thing, you’d have to get it in," he said.
But if you're ever in northern Vietnam, you need to give it a go -- just don't eat too much.