Sticking to a "sophisticated' recipe

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Xôi thập cẩm sticky rice with pork floss, pâté, Vietnamese pork roll and quail eggs served in a banana leaf at the Tam Cau stall that opened some 60 years ago in Ho Chi Minh City / PHOTOS: GIANG VU

Xôi or sticky rice is a very popular breakfast staple, and a snack and takeaway dish had at all times of the day. It can be a sweet or savory dish, and cooked with or without beans like mung beans and peanuts.

While xôi mặn the savory version of sticky rice has many varieties, there is one variety that is particular to Ho Chi Minh City, whose residents have the reputation of being more open than elsewhere in the country to different cultures and cuisines.

Often referred as xôi thập cẩm (sticky rice with assorted food, loosely translated), it consists of pâté from France, Chinese sausages, pork floss (known as rousong), red-cooked pork, Vietnamese pork roll, or chả lụa, and shredded spring opinions fried in pork fat or cooking oil. Above all these toppings are quail eggs and soya sauce to further enhance the dish's flavor.

In Saigon, a xôi thập cẩm stall that is located at the intersection of Cao Thang and Dien Bien Phu streets, District 10, has been open for around 60 years, and still remains a favorite among many people thanks to its distinctive pork meat addition.

Ha Thi Luong, who inherited the Tam Cau stall from her parents, said the meat is cooked mostly in a Chinese style, as her father is a Chinese-Vietnamese.

Calling her father's recipe "sophisticated," Luong said she chooses streaky pork with little fat, rolls it with "armpit pork" the meat located between the pig's shoulder and belly areas, ties them tightly, and cleans them with ground garlic, before cooking it for one and half hours.

Xôi Tám Cẩu

At the intersection of Cao Thang and Dien Bien Phu streets in District 10 (next to the 5 sao (five stars) Phở restaurant that is located on 460 Dien Bien Phu Street, Ward 4, District 10)
 
Open hours: 6:30 a.m. 9 a.m.; 4:30 p.m. 11 p.m.
Prices: VND15,00020,000

She said the cooking time cannot be shortened or lengthened, as the meat will be tough or too soft.

The recipe also creates a pleasant red color for the meat. I tried cooked meat at other stalls and found they were not as well colored.

According to Luong, many fans love having xôi with nothing else but the signature meat and a black thick sauce that is known as hoisin sauce in Chinese. They also eat the meat and the sauce with bánh mì (Vietnamese bread).

However, due to competition from other stalls and restaurants, her stall does not see as many customers as in the past, Luong said, adding that Tam Cau now mainly serves regular customers, many of whom started patronizing it when her parents still ran the show.

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