Ask someone if they like sticky rice and they're likely to assume you are talking about the Thai dessert variety, made with coconut milk and mangoes. But Vietnam has their own savory version of sticky rice (called xoi in Vietnamese) that is nothing like their neighbor's style. Generally made with sticky rice and mung beans, variations are available throughout the country featuring corn, black sticky rice, and meats of all kinds.
Usually, you can find sticky rice being sold in street-side stands or off the backs of bicycles in the early morning hours (before 8 or 9 a.m.). My favorite is sold near Hong Duc University in Thanh Hoa, but after moving away I had to find a way to make it. And now we can all have it for breakfast or just a filling mid-afternoon snack. No need to rush out early to get it when you can just make it yourself.
Xoi Dau Xanh (sticky rice with mung bean)
1 cup long-grain sticky rice
¼ cup yellow mung bean centers
Water for soaking and steaming
½ teaspoon vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Combine rice and mung bean centers in a bowl and rinse twice before adding enough water to cover them by about one inch. Let them soak for four hours or overnight.
2. Drain mixture, then add in oil and salt, stirring well. Cook in cloth-lined steamer or a bamboo steamer for about 30-45 minutes, until the mung bean centers have brightened to a butter yellow color and the rice is sticking to itself.
3. Spread sticky rice onto parchment paper or aluminum foil to cool slightly, pressing it together. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
You can made different varieties of xoi by adding a myriad of toppings. My favorite is with cha bong (dry, fried pork), but here are a few to try.
2Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
½ cup roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
2 tsp. sugar
Mix ingredients in a food processor (or using a mortar and pestle) and then sprinkle over sticky rice.
Cha bong (referred to as pork floss or cotton meat):
1 lb. boneless lean pork
5 Tbsp. fish sauce (nuoc mam)
Cut meat into pieces no larger than 1/2-inch by 3-inches. Combine with fish sauce in a small pan and cook over low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the meat is fully cooked, stirring several times.
2. While still warm, put a few pieces into the mortar and pestle and grind until it falls apart, becoming very stringy. Do not use a food processor since you want it to retain its stringy nature. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, this can be done by hand, but is a bit time consuming.
3. After you've shredded it all, fry it in a dry frying pan, over low heat until all the moisture is out of the meat. It should be very dry and have the look of dry hair or cotton candy.
4. Sprinkle over the sticky rice.
Savory Chicken topping:
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small chunks
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
pepper, to taste
1. Combine chicken, garlic, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl and let it marinate for ten minutes.
2. In hot oil, fry chicken until browned, then add onion and cook for an additional minute.
3. Mix into sticky rice. Add soy sauce if desired.