Xôi (steamed sticky rice) is most commonly served as plain rice embellished with other ingredients but there are a small number of recipes where the rice itself is flavored by being soaked in plant extracts.
I was curious to see if that technique was generally applicable to any flavored liquid. As proof of concept, I wanted to see if soaking sticky rice in fragrant tea overnight would yield tea-flavored xôi. If successful, it would add innumerable possibilities to the long list of different types of xôi that already exists in Vietnamese cuisine.
Materials and methods:
– I soaked sticky rice in fragrant liquid overnight with a little bit of salt
- Chrysanthemum tea
- Barley tea
- Oolong tea
- Matcha (green tea)
- Pandan leaf extract (traditional recipe, for comparison)
– After soaking, sticky rice was drained and cooked in a steamer. Soaking liquid was reserved and 3/4 was added to the boiling water reservoir at the bottom of the steamer.
– After steaming for 20 minutes, the rest of the soaking liquid was added to sticky rice being steamed to maintain moisture level.
– Sticky rice was steamed for another 10 minutes before a teaspoon of sugar was mixed in and steamed sticky rice was removed from the steamer.
– Each type of sticky rice was steamed separately to prevent mixing of flavors.
Overall, I got 5 types of xôi with different and distinctive flavors and colors. So soaking in fragrant tea/liquid works and it isn’t limited to pandan or magenta leaf extract. Below are photos of the sticky rice being soaked in tea on the left and resulting steamed sticky rice on the right with notes on the different flavors
1. Xôi trà cúc (chrysanthemum tea-flavored sticky rice): steamed sticky rice had a nice off-white/yellowish color; the taste was very subtle at first, but more floral fragrance came out as the sticky rice was chewed and it had a very nice sweet after taste.
2. Xôi trà lúa mạch (Barley tea-flavored sticky rice): steamed sticky rice has a dark brown color. The roasted taste came out quite strongly and reminded me of coffee, something I cannot stand and thus this was the 1 flavor I didn’t like in this experiment
3. Xôi trà ô long (oolong tea-flavored sticky rice): steamed sticky rice had a light brown color. I loved the nice fragrance that the tea imparted into steamed sticky rice. The slight tannin taste from the tea made it 1 of the non-sweet flavors in this batch of experiment.
4. Xôi trà xanh (matcha-flavored sticky rice): steamed sticky rice had a nice, light green color. The stringency of green tea added a new dimension to xôi, without being too bitter. It was also nice to be able to get green sticky rice without a sweet fragrance. It opens up more possibilities for pairings.
5. Xôi lá dứa (pandan leaf extract-flavored sticky rice): steamed sticky rice was green and had the distinctively sweet aroma of pandan leaf extract. It was definitely a dessert snack.
Of the 5 kinds of xôi made in this experiment, chrysanthemum and pandan leaf flavors seemed to be suited for desserts while the other 3 kinds could be used for more savory dishes. So far, I used the traditional accompaniments to serve chrysanthemum and matcha xôi: sticky rice topped with toasted grated coconut, crush peanuts and toasted sesame wrapped in banana leaves.
That ensemble didn’t work very well because the nice tea flavors were overwhelmed by the sweetened coconut. I will try to use unsweetened grated coconut next time and should definitely think about non-traditional pairings.