Taste the Rainbow


October 23, 2007
Cuisine: Vietnamese

In front of ABC Bakery at 91 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street
District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

Phone: none
Website: none


Xôi Ngọt – sweet sticky rice (5,000 VND)

The editor of the the Time’s leisure section invited me to fashion/cultural show last night and I couldn’t turn her down. As a result of my late night jaunt, I stayed up way past my bedtime (10:30 PM!) and am now suffering as a result. What I wouldn’t give for a power nap or two.

If there’s one thing that perks me up in the morning, it has got to be sticky rice. Tastier than coffee and sweeter than Frosted Flakes, xoi ngot provides a fine jolt. Unfortunately, I was running too late this morning to stop for a fix, so the best I can do at this moment is to relive my glorious xoi breakfast from last week.

The xoi vendor on CMT8 was selling a couple of different varieties of the sticky stuff in hot metal steamers, including the classic combination of plain sticky rice with peanuts. Desiring a visually arresting breakfast, I requested 5,000 VND worth of the purple, yellow, and orange xoi. He scooped up even amounts of each, sprinkled on some sesame seeds, smeared on a bit of mung bean paste and sent me on my way.

The rainbow of xoi was a feast for the eyes—the colors popped like a box of Crayolas. The subtle differences in flavor between the colors were too slight for my palette to discern, but it really didn’t matter because they were all tasty as heck.

QUESTION: Does anyone know how the xoi’s bold colors are achieved? Natural? Artificial? I know that the orange variety, xoi gac, is made from the gac fruit, but am unsure about the purple and yellow kinds.


7 Responses to “Taste the Rainbow”

  1. 1 pizzamuncher October 31, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    The purple xoi should come from “whole grain” sticky rice (http://lafang.mikemina.com/index.php/2006/06/26/bubur-pulut-hitam-black-glutinous-rice-porridge/) and the yellow one is made by coating sticky rice with mashed mung bean. However, people often use food colouring which make the xoi having bright, unnatural colour like those pictures. The only way to have 100% natural xoi is cooking it at home 🙂

  2. 2 Gastronomer October 31, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Back in America I’d shun artificial coloring, but since time is precious in Vietnam—pass the Yellow 5 ;-).

  3. 3 Serge Lescouarnec November 1, 2007 at 4:37 am

    Mentioned your favorite breakfast item on ‘Serge the Concierge’ today.

    Here is the link to my story

    I took the liberty to borrow one of your photos as an illustration.

    A bientot

    ‘The French Guy from New Jersey’

  4. 4 Andrea Nguyen November 1, 2007 at 4:49 am

    The purple sticky rice doesn’t come from the rice itself. Black (purple) sticky rice, called nep than, in Vietnamese, cooks up ebony colored. What you’ve got here is xoi la cam. La cam are a particular kind of leaf that bleed purple when you cook it. Xoi vendors cook the leaf in water and use the resulting purple cooking water to color the rice. Regular long-grain sticky (glutinous) rice was used here.

    The yellow rice, xoi vo, comes from a coating of ground mung beans (dau xanh). Definitely, these are artificially enhanced versions.

    Nice blog,


  5. 5 Gastronomer November 1, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Serge – thanks for the plug. Send Jersey my love.

    Andrea – I had a feeling the colors were artificial, but there are some brilliant shades in nature so I wasn’t positive. I’ll be on the look out for the real deal.

  6. 6 Andrea Nguyen November 2, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    The xoi vendor likely had some of the actual beans and la cam in the sticky rice but added a touch of brilliance.

  7. 7 Hai January 5, 2008 at 2:53 am

    The purple colour is ‘La cam’ which are leaves that produce a very nice perfume and colour. My grandmom used to have these plants in her garden.

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