Pressed Rice (Cơm Nắm)

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When my family took trips when I was younger, my parents were much more frugal than they are now. My little brother gets fast food these days but when I was a kid, I ate what we packed for eating on the road. Pressed rice is just rice that has been compressed so that it holds its shape. It is eaten with something very salty. My family usually paired it with shrimp cooked in the shell in a salty sauce that is similar to the caramel sauce but I think it was a bit different. I wish I knew exactly what it was because I have fond memories and it was delicious. I'll have to ask my mom.

I just went on a weekend hiking trip this weekend and pressed rice is simple and perfect for such short trips.


  • Rice


  • water


1. Cook your rice as you normally would but with a bit more water than usual. I tend to cook rice with about 1.25-1.5x as much water as rice so for pressed rice I use 1.5-1.75x as much water 2. When your rice is finished cooking, scoop it out onto a damp kitchen towel. 3. Twist the towel to form a ball of rice, and knead the ball through the towel (to keep your hands from getting sticky) like you were kneading dough. 4. After a little bit the rice will become a dense ball that holds its shape. Form the rice into a little loaf or whatever shape, and place on a raised surface to cool.


5. The surface will dry off as the rice cools, a couple hours. Flip once so that the underside gets all dried off too.

6. When it's cool and dried, put in a ziplock bag or wrap in saran wrap to prevent further drying out.

That's it! It'll typically keep for 1-2 days at room temperature which is why it's such good packing food. I know food safety says that cooked rice should be refrigerated but many Asian families keep leftover rice in the rice cooker without issue. It also helps that the pressed rice has less surface area exposed and what is exposed is dried.

When ready to eat, just cut into slices or chunks, and eat with something pretty salty. If you hold the rice by the outside parts, your hands don't get sticky but the sticky interior grabs onto whatever you're eating it with. I made ground pork in caramel sauce.

Another common thing to eat with pressed rice is toasted sesame seeds mixed with salt and sugar to taste.