Let me preface this by saying I did order the sticky rice with pork, but what arrived was only part of the complete dish I had formed in my mind.
This xoi sticky rice stand on Yen Phu Street in Hanoi is definitely not a new stop on this food journey, but this particular version most definitely is. A while back I had so enjoyed a nice serving of tender and sweet roast pork with pickled unripe mango slices set against a backdrop of kamikaze motorbikes and cars careening on by just feet away that I had to return for another full body infusion of street food cuisine.
I returned this early morning to soak up Hanoi’s manic mayhem as it comes to life in the sticky air. A variety called “thit” on the advertising sign was easily recognizable from my vast reservoir of Vietnamese vocabulary as meat. OK, so maybe vast is an overstatement. And come to think of it, my vocabulary would probably not even fill a thimble, but that’s another story.
I swear though the word for meat really is thit, and the lady even repeated it back to me. Seconds later what arrived in front of my squat stool and table that I towered above was anything but carved out of one of our furry friends. Yes, indeed. This one squirted out a chicken in a former life. Two hard boiled eggs cut in half with rusted out scissors lay before me atop that mound of sticky rice.
How did we go from meat to eggs? Trung is egg. Does it somehow sound like thit? These weren’t just any ole hard boiled eggs though. They seemed to have been either braised or deep fried with an outer skin turned deep brown and bubbly textured. They had come out of a giant pot where they simmered with slices of fatty pork that I thought I had correctly ordered.
Wanting to keep this one semi-healthy I scooped out the yellow much to the irritation of some random woman plopped down next to me. I supposed word isn’t out yet in Hanoi that egg whites are healthier. She reached over, grabbed my spoon and began mashing that pasty yellow into my rice. Thanks, lady. Now I can’t eat any of this. She smiled at her handiwork and handed back my spoon. I ended up eating just the egg whites and a small bit of the rice unaffected by that chalky yolk.
Breakfast may not have been exactly how I ordered it, but I have lived here long enough to know that sometimes people give you what they think you want and not what you really want. We’ll call this by its proper name even though it was missing the meat part. That aside, this entire sidewalk food experience exceeded any and all expectations I had hoped for. Only in Hanoi can the streets serve up such delicious memories.