Life Life

28/08/2019 - 08:22

Fragrant sticky rice cooked with cassava in A Luoi

Violet sticky rice mixed with diced white cassava cooked in a bamboo tube on a coal fire is so original and attractive, representing the cuisine of the mountainous area.

Sticky rice with cassava is one of the traditional dishes, usually present on formal and sacred occasions of people in villages in A Luoi such as Arieu, Ada (in the New Rice Festival,) Arieu Ping (at reburial services and deification ceremonies.) It is served on a forest banana leaf which has been washed clean and heated. The dish is fragrant of the smell of the forest and farm.

Sticky rice with cassava looks rustic but is cooked with lots of care and elaboration. To make this delicious and eye-catching dish, one needs violet sticky rice, cassava and bamboo tubes; (bamboo, but not neohouzeaua because bamboo is thicker, preventing sticky rice from being burnt and gives sticky rice a special aroma.)

Violet sticky rice is rare because it is difficult to grow. It can grow up in temperate climate only. It does not grow in too hot weather and it can be snapped in a heavy rain. Cassava for this dish must be fresh so that it is soft and sticky to combine well with sticky rice and to keep its white color.

After being peeled, cassava is then soaked in water for about 30 minutes to eliminate poisonous matter in it, then is diced. Violet sticky rice is also soaked for 30 minutes until it gets soft. Mix sticky rice with diced cassava and a little bit of salt. Stuff the mixture into bamboo tubes. Use banana leaf to plug the tubes.

Remember to leave some space in the tube for sticky rice to expand and to turn the tubes regularly on the coal fire. 

When you feel the good smell of sticky rice, cassava and burnt bamboo, you know the food is ready. Sticky rice with cassava is often eaten with salted peanut, smoked meats or some special dishes unique in A Luoi such as A Pung (little frogs living in rock streams cooked with vegetable ferns or some simple spices to keep its sweet and fresh taste.) 

Sticky rice cooked with cassava can be eaten with A Pung, which is made with vegetable ferns

According to ethnic groups such as Pa Co, Ta Oi, who live in the area, cassava has been their staple food, prevalent in their everyday meals for generations now. Therefore, cassava is always among offerings they make to gods to show their gratitude and to pray for good weather and bumper crops. Sticky rice cooked with cassava also appears in festivals and on special occasions such as engagements, wedding receptions or is used to serve distinguished guests.

Recently sticky rice cooked with cassava has appeared at some restaurants in A Luoi to introduce to people the traditional and original dish of the area. According to Ms. Le Hong Tham, the owner of A La Restaurant specializing in traditional speciality in A Luoi, there is always a great demand for sticky rice cooked with cassava.

Normally restaurants cook sticky rice with cassava in a steaming pot. If you want sticky rice to be cooked in bamboo tubes, you need to order at least one day earlier so that the restaurant has time to prepare. Many tourists leave A Luoi with a packet of fragrant sticky rice cooked with cassava. 

Story and photos:  Quynh Anh