Broken Rice, a Vietnamese food truck found on streets throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties, recently went the brick-and-mortar route with a permanent location in Irvine.
The spot is within Trade Food Hall, a venue down the road from John Wayne Airport that opened in 2017. Founder Peter Nguyen’s Broken Rice takes its name from fragments of rice grains that have a different texture but are otherwise the same rice you know and love.
Broken rice (cơm tấm) is also the name of a Vietnamese dish typically served with pork, greens, pickled vegetables, shrimp paste cake, egg and prawns.
The restaurant’s tagline is, “Not everything broken is bad.”
Customers pick a bowl with their choice of rice (“broken” jasmine white, jasmine brown or garlic red), veggies, protein (chicken beef, tofu — or Cajun shrimp and crispy glazed salmon, which are exclusive to the Irvine location) and sauces (sriracha barbecue, miso curry, peanut sesame or cilantro lime).
Nothing too complex here.
“Broken Rice is inspired by everything I loved to eat growing up,” Nguyen said in an email. “I was always intrigued by the build-your-own concept, and this is my personal spin on it. Once I combined everything together, Broken Rice became a business. And in 2016 I decided to bring my vision to life on wheels.”
Nguyen said they chose setting up in Trade because the food truck had built a following around the Irvine area.
“Being in a brick-and-mortar location offers more consistency, for us and our nearby customers,” he added. “Those near Trade don’t need to look for our truck to plan their weekly lunches.”
During my visits to Broken Rice following its recent grand opening in March, I liked the new Cajun shrimp option and well-seasoned beef. And, for the record, the distinctive broken rice is better than regular unbroken rice because the consistency is more like risotto.
But it’s not the most flavorful meal, so I’d recommend getting extra peanut sesame and cilantro lime sauces.
IF YOU GO
What: Broken Rice
Where: Trade Food Hall, 2222 Michelson Drive, Irvine
When: Hours 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday