Steamed Sticky Rice with Magenta Leaves-Xôi Lá Cẩm

Vietnamese food

     Xôi and Cơm Nếp are both cooked sticky/glutinous rice but with different methods.  When sticky rice is soaked and steamed, it is called “Xôi”.  When it is covered with water and cooked like rice, it is called “Cơm Nếp”.
    It can be a savory or sweet dish and a simple meal by itself, which is usually eaten at breakfast.  However, it is a popular dish in important Vietnamese celebrations.  It can be sold or served wrapped in banana leaves or a paper-thin, spongy cake (Bánh Phồng). It can also be served in a platter or on an individual plate.  Sometimes it is stuffed inside a deep-fried, brown round cake (Bánh Tiêu nhồi/nhân xôi).  Do not be surprise if you see them molded in different shapes or sizes either.  
    It is named depending on its components: flavor, color, etc.  For example, when sticky rice is steamed with split and skinned mung bean, it is called  Xôi  Đậu Xanh  or  Xôi Đậu Xanh Chà or Cà vỏ (Chà/Cà is the verb to describe the process of removing the green skin of mung bean).  When the split, skinned mung bean is steamed or cooked first and then mashed before adding it to the sticky rice, it is called Xôi Vò.
   Xôi Cẩm gets the purple color from Lá Cẩm ̣(Magenta leaves, Peristrophe roxburghiana) which is used as a natural food color in other desserts.

Make 3-4  breakfast servings:

  • 300 g sticky (glutinous)  rice about 1½ cups, soak in Lá Cẩm’s extract liquid over night
  • A handful lá cẩm 
  • 1/4  cup canned coconut milk, stir well
  • 1/4  cup sugar
  • 1/2  tsp salt

Coconut topping

  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/16 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp rice flour, corn starch, tapioca

Mung bean paste

  • 1/4 cup split, skinned mung bean, soak in plenty cold water at the same time soaking sticky rice
  • 1/16 tsp salt

Other toppings:

Shredded coconut, crushed peanut, toasted crushed sesame seeds, deep fried shallot green onion oil

1.  Wash and rinse magenta leaves or plant (leaves with stems).  Coarsely chop them and put into a small pot and cover with 1½ cups water.  Bring it to a boil, turn the heat down to medium low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let it steep for 1/2 hour.  Drain the purple water into a bowl.  Return the leaves back to the pot and add 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer in the same manner as the first time.

2.  Rinse sticky rice with cold water one time, drain.  Put it in a bowl and cover with the first extracted purple liquid and add the second if needed.  We need about 1¼ to 1½ cup extract liquid – just enough to cover  the rice.  Soak it at least 6 hours or overnight at room temperature.  Sticky rice will expand a little bit the first few hours, check to make sure rice is immersed in purple water.

3.  The next day, drain the sticky rice well, no rinse. The sticky rice is purple now.  Put it in a steamer’s basket, make a few small wells to help hot steam circulate. Cover it, and steam on gentle, steady boiling water for 10 minutes.  In a separate container, mix the 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt together, stir well. Add half of the mixture to the sticky rice in the steamer. Afterwards, cover and steam again for 10 minutes.

4. Add in the remaining coconut milk mixture and toss well. Cover and steam for 10 more minutes. (Total steaming time is 30 minutes.)  Check to see if the rice is cooked through:  chew a few grains or squeeze them between your fingers.  It is cooked through if it is soft and tender without a hard core.  If it isn’t, cover the sticky rice and continue steaming ̀for 5-10 more minutes and recheck again.  Fluff it with a folk or chopsticks one last time and remove from boiling water.  Cover tight if it’s not going to be served right away because it will dry easily if exposed to air.

5. Meanwhile, whisk all the ingredients of the coconut topping in a small sauce pan until very smooth.  Cook it over medium high heat until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil.

̉6.  Soak mung bean in  1/4 cup water over night or for at least 6 hours. Drain and rinse well.  Put the mung bean in a small sauce pan and cover with 1/4 cup water, just enough to slightly cover all of the bean.  Bring it to a boil without cover and keep an eye on it to prevent the water from boiling over.  When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium low, cover and simmer  for 15 minutes.  Stir 1 or 2 times.  When the bean is soft and tender without a hard core at the center, remove from heat and use a spoon mash them finely.  Cover at room temperature until use.

5.  Serve the dish lightly warm or at room temperature.  Mound of the sticky rice on a plate, spoon 1/4 mung bean paste over the rice, then add 1/4 coconut topping.  Then add other toppings of your choice:  cooked mung bean, shredded coconut, crushed peanut or sesame seeds, deep fried shallot, or green onion oil.

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