Saigon's most filling street food
When I’m feeling extra hungry and I want to make sure that I’m going to be full, I go for Saigon’s most filling street food: xoi.
Xoi (pronounced soi), or Vietnamese sticky rice, is an extremely popular dish in Vietnam that can be combined with many ingredients, and comes in both sweet and savoury versions. If you’re looking for the savoury version you’re most likely to find xoi ruoc, sticky rice mixed with stringy dried pork, or xoi ga, sticky rice mixed with shredded chicken. Unlike a regular rice dish, like com tam, the sticky rice isn’t served on the side. Instead the meat and the rice are mixed together. There are other variations as well, like egg or even plain xoi with peanut and vegetable, but they aren’t quite as tasty in my opinion.
If you’d rather try the sweet version you’ll be asking for xoi vo, a mixture of sticky rice, mung beans, coconut, peanuts, and condensed milk. Some vendors sell a multi-coloured variety of sweet variations of xoi; order one flavour or ask for a mix of all of them! This dish makes a great dessert, but keep in mind how filling it is. I’ve ordered a serving of xoi plenty of times, only to hit a stomach speed bump at the halfway point.
Finding xoi is pretty easy. Mobile carts are all over the Pham Ngu Lao and Ben Thanh market areas. Several vendors sell xoi right off the back of their bicycles; they tend to be the sweet variety. Their multi-coloured rice displays tend to stand out, with very few other street foods having such bright colours. It seems a little easier to find people selling the sweet version because they require less hardware, as they don’t have to cook meat.
Savoury versions usually stay in more stationary locations. One of the easier to find and better quality street restaurants is Xoi Ga Number 1 at the end of Nguyen Trung Truc. Here you can find an affordable array of many varieties of xoi, both savoury and sweet, within a short walk from Ben Thanh market.
For a helping of sweet xoi expect to pay somewhere around 10,000 VND, for savoury meat versions the norm is 15,000 to 25,000 VND, but especially around Ben Thanh prices can creep up to the 30,000 to 40,000 VND level.
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 18th October, 2014.