JavaScript is off. Please enable to view full site.

Steadfast vendor serves chicken sticky rice on Ho Chi Minh City sidewalk for 36 years

Monday, June 24, 2024, 11:46 GMT+7
Steadfast vendor serves chicken sticky rice on Ho Chi Minh City sidewalk for 36 years
A serving of Le’s chicken sticky rice. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

Despite the unpredictable weather in Ho Chi Minh City, a woman continues to station her chicken sticky rice bamboo baskets under a green canopy at the intersection of Suong Nguyet Anh and Cach Mang Thang 8 Streets in District 1 over the years.

Le, a 64-year-old native of Ho Chi Minh City, has been faithfully carrying her shoulder pole with two bamboo baskets of sticky rice to the same venue daily since 1:00 pm for the past 36 years.

The woman explained that she inherited the sticky rice trade from her mother after her passing, and has continued in the profession to this day.

“I miss my mom dearly!” said Le. 

“My father passed away before 1975 when I was around eight or nine years old. 

“My mother single-handedly sold sticky rice on the streets and raised 11 children. 

“This dish belongs to the ‘old lady’ and has been passed down to her children.”

In her childhood, Le assisted her mother with cooking sticky rice and learned the recipes. 

Her menu includes several varieties such as sticky rice with shredded chicken, sticky rice with unlaid chicken eggs and chicken intestine, and corn sticky rice.

Le smiles while selling chicken sticky rice from her bamboo baskets. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

Le smiles while selling chicken sticky rice from her bamboo baskets in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

According to Le, corn sticky rice is the most difficult to make among her menu.

Starting at 5:00 am, she begins steaming corn and sticky rice on the stove. 

It takes about five hours for the sticky rice to be ready.

Every two or three minutes, a customer stops by to make a purchase, with some buying as many as 14 servings.

Le prices each portion of sticky rice at VND30,000 (US$1.18).

She mentioned that in the past, she only sold two chickens a day, but now she sells three or four on average. 

Some customers who wish to buy in larger quantities have to make reservations in advance.

Le’s corn sticky rice. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

Le’s corn sticky rice. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

Pointing to her pair of bamboo baskets and shoulder pole, Le remarked, “This is a gift!” 

“I used to have a shoulder pole myself, but it wore down over time. 

“In the 1990s, a customer brought out this shoulder pole, saying they used it as a movie prop. 

“When the filming was done, they gave it to me.”

As Le’s pair of baskets had been damaged several times, many people suggested she change to carts, which would be easier than shouldering a pot of sticky rice. 

However, she remained determined not to switch.

Chicken served with Le’s sticky rice. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

Chicken served with Le’s sticky rice. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

“I used to walk and carry sticky rice from my home at Vuon Chuoi Market in District 3 to sell here,” Le said. 

“Lately, due to my age and inability to bear the heavy weight, I’ve had my husband take me by motorbike. 

“I can change anything else, but not this job of selling sticky rice or these baskets.

“Sometimes I wonder why my fate has been so challenging, but I continue to sell sticky rice because I’m thankful for having a means to support my children’s education. 

“Both of my children are now nurses at the hospital, thanks to their mother’s sticky rice baskets.”

Crispy fried shallots served with Le’s sticky rice. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

Crispy fried shallots served with Le’s sticky rice. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

Memorable customers

There is a family of regular customers whom Le will always remember.

“Back then, they used to bring their children here after classes and cycling,” Le recalled. 

“The kids would often eat sticky rice, then run around and play. 

“The older kid’s name is Phuc, and the younger’s is Loc.

“Later, they all studied abroad and started their own families, but they still visit from time to time to enjoy sticky rice. 

“Every year, they give me lucky money and remind me to take care of my health. 

“It touches me deeply.”

Sitting on the sidewalks of Ho Chi Minh City selling sticky rice for decades, Le feels fortunate to witness the vibrancy of the city and to receive sincere generosity from its people.

Le sells chicken sticky rice from her bamboo baskets. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

Le sells chicken sticky rice from her bamboo baskets. Photo: Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre

Sometimes it is the small gesture of someone telling her not to return their small change, other times it is a past customer stopping by unexpectedly, or simply someone asking about her well-being.

She recalled a time when a customer asked for packed sticky rice but refused to pay, throwing it on the ground. 

Another customer came from afar, picked up the package, and insisted on buying it.

After the reporters from Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper bid farewell, Le smiled gently and wished them a safe journey. 

Looking up at the sky, she said: “Every day, I hope it won’t rain. 

“For street vendors like us, as long as it stays dry, it’s a blessing.”

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get the latest news about Vietnam!

Bao Anh - Ho Lam / Tuoi Tre News

More

Read more

Photo

Video

Ho Chi Minh City embroiderer creates lifelike artwork

Thach Ngoc Phuc Yen is an entirely self-taught embroiderer who makes stunning lifelike works of art out of his home in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City.

Check out stunning Du Gia Waterfall in Ha Giang, northern Vietnam

From morning through late afternoon, crowds of tourists flock to Du Gia Waterfall to enjoy its scenic beauty and refreshing waters. Nestled amidst the mountains and forests of Tien Village in Du Gia Commune, Yen Minh District, Ha Giang Province, northern Vietnam, Du Gia Waterfall is often likened to a slumbering fairy.

Foreigners cook Vietnamese meals for needy locals

A group of foreign tourists recently visited the Social Protection Center of Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. They were touched by the care and attention given to the center’s senior citizens.