For me, there was many when I was a kid growing up in Vietnam. There was the lady with the newspaper stall that my mom & I would stop by every Wednesday to pick up our reading. There was the stick thin man who was so poor that all he had was a cubic shack made of pieces of tole & raincoats; he would guard people's motorbikes while they would go eat at one of the many restaurants on our street. The Chinese man with his small glass cart of green papaya & beef jerky salad who would click his giant scissors to let us know that he was around. Once in a while there was the peanut candy man with a boombox playing loud cheesy music who made me turn up the volume on my Walkman.
But there was one in particular that I would see almost every morning during my summer vacations: the sticky rice lady. She would walk from street to street balancing her two baskets of different kinds of sticky rice while simultaneously chanting: "Sticky rice! Sticky rice! Who wants sticky rice?" and her pace would slow down whenever she reached our gate. She would stay a little while longer in the front until I faithfully ran down the stairs yelling: "Sticky rice lady!" She always had many kinds of sticky rice in one basket: red grain, cochinchin gourd, corn, pandan, peanut, and in the other one, there was condiments: mung bean paste, sesame seeds, ground peanuts, sesame salt, tapioca strings, coconut flakes.
I tried everything she made, but my favorite was always the combination of pandan sticky rice, slathered with mung bean paste, topped with a few fat chewy tapioca strings, sprinkled with coconut flakes and all wrapped into a roll with a rice paper (the kind we use in torrone)
Don't judge me.
Now that I'm older, I make my own sticky rice and here I share with you another of my favorite: "xoi lap xuong cha bong" that I made for Tet which everyone really enjoyed.
Xoi lap xuong cha bong ( Sticky rice with Chinese sausage & pork floss)
- 2 cups of glutinous rice
- 4 Chinese sausages
- 2 sprigs of green onion, sliced
- a handful of pork floss (I bought mine at the Asian grocery store)
- few drizzles of soy sauce
- fried onions (also bought at the Asian grocery store)
Boil the sausages for a few minutes so they don't dry out when cooked and get too hard to chew, then slice them up. Heat a pan over medium heat, cook the sausages for a few minutes, then a minute right before it's done, drizzle some soy sauce over it and toss in the green onions.
Mix the sausages into the sticky rice. Top with pork floss, fried onions and serve!
Many years later, after I've moved to Canada, one of the first things my grandma said to me when I came back to visit was: "The sticky rice lady still asked about you for a long time after you were gone. She doesn't come around anymore because she knows you don't live here anymore"
...I realized that I never asked her name. After all those years!!! *sigh*