My breakfast comes wrapped in recycled office paper and a banana leaf. Then, a plastic bag!
I'm eating thrice-wrapped sticky rice, this blog's namesake and a staple of the morning street food scene in Hanoi. The vendor is crouched behind a row of motorbikes parked on the footpath, only really noticeable because of the scrum of customers surrounding her, calling down orders, leaning in to check on portioning. As the street vendor and the customer have what might be called a fractious relationship in Hanoi, there is reproach in many transactions, from one party or the other. The vendor may be trying to maximise profits by ever-so-slightly diminishing the size of the portions, and the customer may notice. Or the customer may try to extract a bigger portion out of the vendor for the same price by accusing her of meanness. Calls for "extra this" or "not so much of that" are adjudicated upon by all present. In short, on the streets of Hanoi, the customer is not backward in coming forward and the vendor will spit venom if too far provoked.
For me it's better than TV.
And what this vendor has in her basket to fill the excessive packaging is a range of fixings to augment sticky rice, which on its own is filler at best. Three variations on a theme are available. Xôi lạc involves steaming the rice with raw peanuts so that it comes attractively dotted with brown when it is lumped on the banana leaf, a generous teaspoon of sesame salt (muối vừng) wedged alongside. I scoop up a wodge of rice in my hand and dab at this wonder-condiment that really takes the rice from bland to very palatable.
Xôi ngô uses corn kernels in a similar fashion, though more generously distributed through the rice. The less sweet white corn is utilised here; it seems to be the most prominent variety grown in Vietnam, with the locals often referring to yellow sweet corn as being Thai corn. This corn appears to maintain its form better, each kernel still plump after cooking and given to chewing in the mouth. Again, it's what goes on top that speaks to the taste buds. Onion crunch gets added here. Hành khô are shallots that have been deep fried and if I'm asking for extra anything, this is it! A tablespoon of vegetable oil (see hand on spoon in green cup above) is liberally drizzled over the rice to loosen it for eating.
Xôi đậu xanh is a conglomeration of split mung beans and rice on top of which some kind of pounded mung bean paste is scattered, again with the dried shallots and oil. An additional topping available for any of these three streetside sticky rice packets is a stringy, salty and fishy dried pork called ruốc thịt lợn. Made in a process involving fish sauce, it is perhaps the most popular choice of the locals. I don't like it but when it's put on by mistake, it's easy enough to pick off and turn my nose up at.
So, three varieties of sticky rice, acquired not without a degree of community intervention, thrice-wrapped and almost totally consumed; I'm in need of a good lie-down.
opposite Cafe Nang
6 Hang Bac St
(early mornings only)