Anyway, I've been vicariously reliving my last trip to Vietnam through Cathy of Gastronomy. Her recent post about khao lam (Thai sticky rice in bamboo) reminded me of the first time I tried the Vietnamese version. According to Vietnam News, com lam (Vietnamese sticky rice in bamboo) is a specialty of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, who also share kinship with the Thai and Hmong ethnic minorities in Thailand and Laos. So did it originate with the Hmong and spread to Thailand and Vietnam? Or is it a Thai specialty that spread to the Hmong, who also brought it to Vietnam? Can any of my readers offer insight into com lam?
I had taken a weekend trip from Hanoi to Sa Pa, in the northwestern corner of Vietnam near the Chinese border. Sa Pa is a former French military station that was settled in the late 1880s. I think the current town though is not in the exact same location? The photo is of the town square, where the Hmong love market used to be held until too many gawking tourists made them move it to a secret location. The women in the photo are red Dao. Other ethnic minorities in Sa Pa include flower and black Hmong.
And just on the other end of the central square is the outdoor food market where I ate grilled pork on skewers and com lam. The long tubes are young bamboo with sticky rice inside.
Here's a look at the inside of the bamboo. The sticky rice is cooked inside the bamboo, it's not just a pretty container. To eat, we split open the bamboo. The sticky rice takes on a very subtle aroma from the bamboo. For wont of a better description, it makes the rice taste very green.
There were five of us and we ate about half a dozen com lam, countless pork skewers, a few ears of grilled corn, some nem chua nuong (Vietnamese grilled pickled pork) (That's the banana-leaf wrapped snack beside the Fanta can), and some drinks for a whopping $5?
Well, I distinctly remember paying with a $50,000 Vietnamese dong bill, which is about $3 US, and some change. The lady was surprised and said she had never seen such a big bill before. The going rate was approximately $15,800 Vietnamese dong per $1 US. (Incidentally, the first time my whole family went back to Vietnam in 1994, the highest bills were $2,000. Imagine exchanging $100 USD and getting a wad of those bills!)
So if you're ever in Sa Pa, just look for the colorful umbrellas and outdoor food market just to the side of the central square. I've got tons more photos from this trip and the rest of my time in Vietnam that summer, sooo...anyone interested in travel stories or do you want me to stick to the food?
Who else ate sticky rice in bamboo?
Jeni of Oishii Eats visited Sa Pa this past summer.
Cathy of Gastronomy ate Thai khao lam.
Kirk of Mmm-yoso ate com lam and hot vit lon (Vietnamese fetal duck eggs).
Other Vietnam posts can be found in the tag Series: Vietnam, but I suggest reading the series in this order:
Mekong Delta - Vietnam
Com Lam (Vietnamese Sticky Rice in Bamboo) - Sa Pa - Vietnam
Pho Cuon Ha Noi (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Rolls Hanoi-Style)
Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword Lake) - Ha Noi - Vietnam
Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) - Ha Noi - Vietnam
Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill)
Sofitel Plaza Saigon Chocolate Buffet - Saigon - Vietnam
1 year ago today, French food and a rather odd encounter at Brasserie Astuce Restaurant - Pomona.