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Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves: A fragrant twist on a Vietnamese classic

Sunday, June 19, 2022, 10:06 GMT+7
Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves: A fragrant twist on a Vietnamese classic
Portions of 'xoi xeo' (Hanoi-styled sticky rice topped with mung bean) await being wrapped in lotus leaves at Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

A nameless xoi (sticky rice) stall in Ho Chi Minh City has been a regular breakfast spot for early birds for the past decade.

Located at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, the stall opens for just two and a half hours, from 6:30 am to 9:00 am each morning, as locals hurriedly queue for a delicious morning breakfast.

People await a plate of sticky rice at Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

People await a plate of sticky rice at Pham Bich Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Pham Bich Hanh and her husband, the stall’s owners, spend each afternoon preparing ingredients for the next morning.

Pham Bich Hanh (right) and her husband work at their stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Pham Bich Hanh (right) and her husband work at their stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

While their stall offers many dishes, customers' favorites include xoi xeo (Hanoi-style sticky rice topped with mung beans), xoi bap (corn sticky rice), xoi dau phong (peanut sticky rice), xoi gac (sweet gourd sticky rice).

“We used to sell xoi and wrap each dish in banana leaves in the north, but when we moved to Ho Chi Minh City we saw how available lotus leaves were and decided to make a switch,” Hanh said.

A portion of sticky rice topped with pork floss and bologna at Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

A portion of sticky rice topped with pork floss and bologna at Pham Bich Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Not only do the leaves keep the rice warm but also ensure each bite is filled with a soft, pleasant fragrance, reduce the need for single-use plastic, and help attract customers.

Hanh sells each plate of sweet sticky rice for VND12,000, and each plate of savory sticky rice for VND15,000.

Rice topped with bologna costs VND20,000. (US1$ = VND23,240)

Corn sticky corn is covered with lotus leaves at  Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Corn sticky rice is covered with lotus leaves at Pham Bich Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

“What makes rice here special is that it’s wrapped in lotus leaves, so it has a sweet fragrance,” said Ngoc Dung, one of Hanh’s regulars.

“It’s worth the wait [in line] to eat the food you love.”

Bich Ngoc, a first-time customer at Hanh’s stall, was delighted to see her meal packed in lotus leaves.

“Even though many people in my hometown grow lotus flowers, I didn’t know that the leaves could be used this way,” she said.

Mung bean paste is put on top of 'xoi xeo' (Hanoi-styled sticky rice topped with mung bean) at Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Mung bean paste is put on top of 'xoi xeo' (Hanoi-style sticky rice topped with mung beans) at Pham Bich Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Corn sticky rice is served at Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Corn sticky rice is served at Pham Bich Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Sticky rice is wrapped in lotus leaves at Hanh’s tall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Sticky rice is wrapped in lotus leaves at Pham Bich Hanh’s tall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Ngoc Dung, a regular at Hanh’ sticky rice stall, smiles after seeing her breakfast. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Ngoc Dung, a regular at Pham Bich Hanh’ sticky rice stall, smiles after seeing her breakfast. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

People await a plate of sticky rice at Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

People await for a plate of sticky rice at Pham Bich Hanh’s stall at 35 Ngo Thi Thu Minh, Ward 2, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

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