Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On sticky rice- 1. Xoi Chien Phong

Foodies know sticky rice as an ingredient for mochi, but that's just the beginning. I love sticky rice in any form. Sticky rice is an extremely versatile ingredient in Asia. In Korea, we use sticky rice to make Samgye-tang ( sticky rice-stuffed-young chicken soup), all sorts of Doek ( desserts made out of sticky rice), steamed sticky rice, sticky rice steamed then pan fried into cakes, Yak-bob (caramelized sticky rice with dates and chestnut ..... , we even use sweet rice powder in a type of frying batter. It's a staple ingredient not just in Korea, but also used throughout Asia. I see my good Indonesian friend Sayful and his wife Kristen make art out of a dish called lemper (savory sticky rice bundle in banana leaves ) and Nagasari (sweet sticky rice bundle dessert, cooked in coconut milk ). And my Japanese friend Takenochi makes the stickiest yet softest mochi with red bean paste. I'll introduce them in later blogs.

One of the best sticky rice disheds I've ever eaten was Xoi Chien Phong (fried sticky rice balloon , they call it “Great ball of Rice”) in a remote village, near My Tho. After taking a bus for 2 hours from Saigon and then changing to a small boat on the Mekong River, we arrived at a beautiful and quiet village to have lunch. They deep-fried a tennis ball sized sticky rice dough in a wok. Soon the dough expanded to a basketball-sized balloon magically. They serve it as a side dish, accompanied with fried whole fresh water fish and consomme type soup (the soup look like just water with some vegetables but the taste was indeed top notch! ), and pork dish. How did it taste? Heavenly delicious! It was golden brown-caramelized, crispy outside and gooey, soft, chewy inside, slightly sweet, slightly salty. I especially liked the dramatic table-side presentation of the sticky rice balloon cake. They cut the balloon into serving portions with scissors on the table. Banh Ran, the regional northern Vietnamese dessert which is much smaller than Xoi Chien Phong , has mung bean paste filling inside (which is very similar to Chinese sticky rice ball cake, Zin Dou ) but this one didn't have any filling inside. It was simply hollow. We have Gongal-ppang ( translated as Bluff bread ) in Korea, made by similar technique but it's made with normal flour. (I'll introduce it later as well. ) It was one of those unforgettable meals in my life, I was amazed at how a side dish could play such a beautiful role on the table.


Blogger Alex Min said...


June 12, 2009 at 11:26 AM  

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