Xôi (sticky rice) - a common dish of Vietnam

Published:  07:50 Monday - February 06, 2017

Xôi (sticky rice) - a common dish of Vietnam

If rice is Vietnam’s staple crop, xôi (sticky rice) is the nation's choice dish, which is typical in every Vietnamese family's daily life.

Xôi (sticky rice) is a breakfast favourite, and the most popular late night-early dawn snack or meal. It is sold by vendors in early morning markets and it can be found in fanciest restaurants serving traditional Vietnamese food.

                        sticky rice

There are any number of specialty Xôi restaurants, as well as push carts that stand on street corners or bicycles that go around the streets well past midnight, long after restaurants and other eateries have closed.

Xôi, as the name suggests, is made with glutinous rice, steamed or cooked. There are those who love having this regularly for breakfast and those who have it at any time of the day or night, but almost every Vietnamese will have it at least once a month.

Food expert Võ Quốc, head of Món Ngon Restaurant and Cooking Class, said: “Each region has its own (collection of) Xôi dishes. Vegans and vegetarians can enjoy Xôi with muối vừng (ground sesame and peanuts) or sugar, while others have a wide range of meat choices, including Xôi thịt kho tàu (sticky rice with Chinese braised pork) and Xôwith liver pate, sausage, fried eggs, char siu, chickens or roasted piegons.”

                              Xôi thịt kho tàu (sticky rice with Chinese braised pork)

                                       Xôi thịt kho tàu (sticky rice with Chinese braised pork)

On full moon days, New Year holidays, weddings, death anniversaries and other occasions, Xôi is a must-have dish on the feast’s platters.

The ways to make sticky rice depend on the variety, family recipes or individual creativity that housewives bring into play.

However, the most popular method is to soak the glutinous rice in warm water for many hours until it expands; wash and mix the rice with a little salt and other ingredients separately; place them in an steamer (called chõ in the north and xửng in the south); pour boiling water into the bottom of the steamer and place it on a pot so that the ingredients are steamed without touching the water. Later, the steamer and the pot are placed on a stove and boiled over low heat until the sticky rice is well-cooked and limber.

Now, busy women use electric rice cookers with the steaming function, but the majority preference is for xoi cooked the traditional way.

Xôi đậu xanh (green bean sticky rice) is one of the most popular xoi dishes because it can be served with many different ingredients, including meat. Since it is easy to cook, it is a popular choice among housewives as well. This dish is made by chafing the green beans (mung beans), soaking them in water for around five hours (often left overnight), hulling (or not), mixing them with glutinous rice, and steaming them in an steamer. 

                            xôi đậu xanh

                                            Xôi đậu xanh (green bean sticky rice)

Other popular Xôi varieties include Xôi xéo (turmeric flavoured sticky rice served with powdered green beans and topped with fried shallots), Xôi lạc (sticky rice with peanuts), Xôi ngô (stick rice with corn) and Xôi đậu đen (sticky rice with black beans).

                            xôi đậu đen

                                             Xôi đậu đen (sticky rice with black beans)

Another reason for its popularity is that while it is very tasty, it is also healthy, starched but not fatty.

Xôi ngũ sắc (five-coloured sticky rice) is usually made by several ethnic minority communities, in the northern region. The five colours of the dish symbolise five elements: yellow is the colour of land; green the colour of wood; red the colour of fire; white the colour of metal; and black the colour of water. These communities have their own secrets, using different herbs and wild vegetables to dye the sticky rice and create these colours.

                           xôi ngũ sắc

                                            Xôi ngũ sắc (five-coloured sticky rice)

In the past, Xôi ngũ sắc was only served on important occasions like festivals, ceremonies and weddings. It has become a very popular daily dish now, and a marker of the host’s hospitality.

For making the red-coloured sticky rice, the bright red flesh of the ripe gac fruit is used. Turmeric is used to make the yellow sticky rice, magenta plant for purple, the ash of burned ginger leaves for black, and the pandan leaf for green. The glutinous rice is soaked in water mixed with the above ingredients.

Xôi gà (chicken sticky rice) is particularly liked in the central region. Visitors to Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue also favour this dish because it is delicious and can be packed easily. The dish is fatty and nutritious. Chicken is boiled with a pinch of turmeric. The chicken broth is then used to cook the glutinous rice, giving the rice its yellow colour and its butter taste.

                         xôi gà

                                                Xôi gà (chicken sticky rice)

The boiled chicken is shredded by hand into thin slices and mixed with salt, pepper, sliced onions and Vietnamese mint. The dish is finally topped with scallion oil. This is a balanced dish, with protein from the chicken, lipid from the chicken broth, starch from glutinous rice and vitamins from herbs and the accompanying salad.

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