Since the founding of the South, Xôi (sticky rice) and sweet soup has been the first to be used as offerings. Today, they both are also the tasty and cheap foods of the Mekong Delta with only 5000VND to fill you up. This is a breakfast food of blue collar workers, college students, and students and is also a beloved food of white collar workers with all kinds of variations. Xôi is used as offering to ancestors, to celebrations, or as food and snack. The main ingredients is glutinous rice or corn that is cooked like rice or steamed. Other ingredients includes mung bean, black bean, coconut, sweetened peanuts, etc. The most popular variation, is corn sticky rice, Gac (a red fruit) sticky rice, broken sticky rice (northern), peanut sticky rice, with black bean, green bean, red bean. More complex can be durian sticky rice with coconut water, jack fruit sticky rice with magenta leaves, chè sticky rice. Meat version can have chinese sausage, chicken, etc. This is a food that proves the creativity in food creation of the Mekong Delta from what seemingly common into the most diversed, not only in color, spices, ingredients but also in the process of making, like loaf of xôi vị, fried sticky rice cake, or puffy sticky rice cake describe below. One thing worth mentioning is that xôi used to be more eco-friendly due to its wrapping of banana leaves, spoon made from coconut, or wrapped in other breads. Nowadays, xôi is wrapped in nylon bags, styrofoam, or plastic spoon.
Fried sticky rice cake: Xôi has many types, broken sticky rice, mung bean sticky rice, xôi nếp than (ash glutinous sticky rice), meat sticky rice, sweet sticky rice, etc. To fit every need and create something new, the makers started to make fried sticky rice. The ingredients includes glutinous rice, shell-less mung bean, coconut milk, salt, sugar, and oil. Mung bean and rice are washed and soaked overnight. Then wash once more and leave to dry. Put mung bean in a steamer for 20 minutes then mix with glutinous rice, add spices and mix together. When steaming, spread coconut milk over it slowly then stir until cooked. When cooked, place on a big plate and use a glove to roll into small balls. Roll until the sticky rice is soft and chewy but no longer sticks. When the oil is hot, fry until both sides are golden.
Anise sticky rice cake: This is a traditional and beloved food of the people in the Mekong Delta. It has many flavors and colors depends on the liking of the maker. The ingredients are glutinous rice, coconut milk, star anise, mung bean, sesame seeds (or crushed peanuts), sugar, and salt. To dye the cakes, the maker can use food colorings. But if the maker wants flavor while having bright colors for the cakes, natural dyes are prefer: magenta leaves, pandan leaves, gac fruit, etc. Soak the glutinous rice overnight, then drain and leave to dry and mix with coconut water and pandan leaves to give it a green color and nice aroma. Steam the rice then lightly fry it with coconut milk and sugar, then add toasted and ground star anise, then cook until all the coconut milk is gone. Add mung bean and cook until the bean is smooth and soft. Let cool, line the pot with banana leaves or a pan with designs and add sesame seeds on top. Press to make the layers of sticky rice tight to cut without breaking apart. A well made cake is chewy with a signature aroma.
Fluffy fried sticky rice: The first impression of this dish always makes the eater surprised and entertained. The cake when fried has a large size, big and round like a soccer ball, the inside is empty with only a small bowl worth of sticky rice left sitting in the bottom of the large ball. Ingredient and the making process needs patient and skill. Glutinous rice and mung bean are soaked for 4 to 6 hours. The mung bean is steamed, ground, then mix with rice and steam with coconut milk. When done, lightly spread sugar in and mix and shape into a soft and chewy ball. Leave on a flat surface for 10 minutes. The frying is the most difficult part, roll and shape the dough into a circle. Heat the oil then put in the dough. Using two big spoons, continue to shape the dough as a circle. It will remains at the bottom and become fluffy but not a ball yet. Once a while, flip it to keep it cooked on all sides. Repeats until all sides are golden and it has form into a ball. Once it is served and cut into halves, the lookers will be surprised and amused when the large ball is only made from a small piece of sticky rice. The little bit of sticky rice in the middle is surrounded by a large space. If that was your first time seeing it, you will be surprised. When eaten with grilled meat, it gets even better.
Collected by Linh Trang