I was introduced to ga bo xoi a few years ago at my brother’s office party, where one of the staff ordered this dish, which literally looked like an inflated football.

I’d seen deep fried sticky rice before, but not in this particular fashion. When I cut open the sticky rice ball, there was a whole chicken inside!

Glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is a form of short grain that has a higher starch content than the long and medium grain rice found in most household pantries.

Sticky rice is often eaten by hand, and it can be coloured white, purple or black when used in desserts, such as Vietnamese xoi (sweet rice dessert), khoa niew (Laotian sticky rice) and Thailand’s famous kha niao man (sticky rice with coconut and mango or durian).

Despite its name, glutinous rice contains no gluten and is traditionally steamed rather than boiled.

To make ga bo xoi you need a whole chicken (free range is best) of about 1.2 kg, gao nep (glutinous rice), hanh la (scallions), coconut juice, salt, pepper and vegetable oil.

A very simple recipe and not so complicated to prepare if you know what you are doing, just like when you’re making foie gras terrine or chocolate mousse. Easily said and done right? Well not exactly.

I was so excited to research ga bo xoi this month. However finding someone willing to share their secret recipe with a chef proved … well… challenging. But the information started to flow once I told them it was for the Local Eats article in AsiaLIFE Magazine!

This is what I discovered.

The first step in making ga bo xoi is soaking the glutinous rice in fresh coconut juice for a couple of hours, or overnight, to soften the rice and add flavor.

Second, prepare the chicken: a whole chicken, minus the head and neck. The chicken needs to be gutted, cleaned, rubbed with salt and rinsed thoroughly with water.

Next, boil water with a teaspoon of salt in a large steamer. Add the glutinous rice and the chicken and steam for about 15 minutes.

Lay out a sheet of baking paper brushed with mo hanh, or scallion oil. Spread the sticky rice evenly on the baking paper and lay the chicken on top. Wrap and pack the whole chicken with sticky rice. Let everything cool, and bake in a conventional oven at 400F/200C for 10 to 15 minutes.

The final step is to fry the entire ball until crispy and golden.

To serve, cut up the sticky rice and chicken into smaller pieces on a platter with side mixture of salt, pepper and lime juice for dipping. Other dipping options include nuoc cham (marinated fish sauce), nuoc xi muoi (sweet plum sauce) and of course tuong ot (hot chilli sauce).

This dish is a definite crowd pleaser, but I recommend always ordering ahead because it’s very time-consuming to prepare.

1. Ga Bo Xoi
117-119 Ly Chinh Thang Street, District 3, HCMC
Open morning to 7pm Daily. Order time between 45 to 60 minutes.
Telephone: +84 963 700 599

2. Chicken Spinach FLYFOOD
29/2 Hoang Dieu Street, District 4, HCMC
Open from 8am to 8pm
Telephone: +84 28 3991 1911

3. Ga Bo Xoi Cao Phat
229/40/18 Tay Thanh Street, Tan Phu District, HCMC
Telephone: +84 978 707 560
Order 3 to 4 hours ahead of time.