Sticky business – An introduction to Xôi

August 25, 2018


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Americans go for supersized pancakes, a stereotypical English breakfast would comprise of eggs, bacons, sausages, fried bread, baked beans, and mushrooms, and a Finnish breakfast is a hot coffee with vodka accompanied by a hearty cigarette.




Jokes aside, everybody wakes up each morning with an empty stomach and the desire to go back to sleep. Most of us do have things to attend to and roll out of bed, finish our morning routine, then head to breakfast.


For many Vietnamese, breakfast is enjoyed outside. There are quite few rules to what constitutes a breakfast in Vietnam. It can range from a steamed bun to a heavy bowl of Pho. Xôi – or sticky rice dishes – is a popular breakfast food. There are many types of Xôi, all made with glutinous rice, the difference is in the add-ons – mung beans, boiled peanuts, floss, pork, eggs,… Types of Xôi with meat add-ons are considered more “posh” while the vegetarian alternatives are considered more “street”. There are also sweet versions which are commonly eaten as desserts. Nutritionally, both types are packed with energy, perfect to jump start the day with plenty of carbs and protein. That coupled with the fact that’s it’s convenient to get and also very cheap make it a preferred breakfast food amongst the Vietnamese – from students to white collar workers.


Xôi is at heart and historically a street food. But it is not only a street food or breakfast food though. Major religious rituals and cultural holidays call for a plate of Xôi.



Xôi Gac a.k.a Red Sticky Rice – made with “baby jackfruit”, “sweet gourd”, or “Momordica cochinchinensis”, a staple during Tet holiday. Source: theravenouscouple


How it’s made


Cooking Xôi involves soaking the grains in water for a few hours until they have absorbed enough. Then the remaining water is drained and the grain is steamed dry with salt to taste or added ingredients depending on the desired Xôi dish, resulting in a sticky, chewey, soft rice dish.