Xoi Sticky Rice

On a recent walk through the city, I realised that what had once been common sights on Saigon’s streets are now rare. Quintessential Vietnamese items such as a classic ganh (baskets used for carrying), xich lo (cycle rickshaw), ao dai (traditional Vietnamese dress) or non la (conical hat) have become quite rare, especially in the downtown area of District 1.

But there still are some relics. On the corner of Mac Thi Buoi and Hai Ba Trung streets there is a sweet and humble husband-and-wife team that has been selling xoi (sticky rice) since 1975. The husband used to ride his xich lo to drop off his wife and her ganh of goods. But now he helps his wife sell rice since he is too old to drive the rickshaw.

Xoi is a classic Vietnamese glutinous rice dish that is great for breakfast, but can be eaten anytime. Adding simple items, such as sesame seeds, sugar, coconut shavings and mung beans, enhances xoi’s flavours. Adding shredded chicken, braised pork or fried Chinese sausage instantly makes it savoury. It’s a simple dish, yet not so easy to prepare, so I really appreciate those who create it.

The husband and wife duo only serve four different types of xoi. Xoi nep than, or black sticky rice, is traditionally served on a rice cracker, topped with sugar, sesame seeds, mung bean paste, roasted peanuts and shaved coconut. Unique and delicious.

Xoi bap (sweet sticky rice with corn, sugar, fried onions, and smashed cooked green beans) is a popular main dish that originated in northern Vietnam. It uses two main ingredients from that region, sweet rice and corn maize. The lure of this dish comes from the aroma created by the fried shallots and the salted sweetness of roasted sesame and peanuts.

Xoi mang, (mang means salty or savoury to distinguish it from the many sweet sticky rice dishes) is a hearty meal composed of sticky rice with Chinese sausage (lap xuong), shredded chicken, Vietnamese sausage (cha lua), small shrimp (tep), dried shredded pork (cha bong), roasted garlic, and a mixture of green onions and soy sauce, all served on a rice waffle.

Xoi dau phong (peanuts sticky rice) is a humbler version of the dish composed of salt, sesame seeds, sugar and shaved coconut.

If you want to try xoi, or are looking for another great place to get it, stop by this stand between 7am and noon to taste a Saigon relic.

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