A real life trip to the Ban Ho community, the village of the Tay ethnic group in Sa Pa. We had the opportunity to explore the customs and traditions of the local people. One of the most impressive things for us is the five-colored sticky rice. The colors are as beautiful as a rainbow.
While we sit by the fire, we enjoy the sound of spring and waiting for the pots to steam wakes up our hungry stomachs. During this time, I take the opportunity to talk to Mrs Ma Thi Ot (a 65 year old woman living in Ban Den village - Ban Ho community). She teaches me about making five-colored sticky rice - the traditional dish very famous throughout the Tay people in Sa Pa.
While looking after the pot, Mrs Ma Thi Ot shows me how to make the five-colors of sticky rice. She explains that making the dish of five-colors is a rather complex process. First, they need to find plants to create the colors, such as: the "khau cam" tree to create a purple color, the "khau deng" tree to create a red color, and the "khau kheo" tree to create a yellow color. The coloring from these plants is the main feature of this sticky rice.
The plants were crushed, boiled and filtered so they would absorb water. The Tay ethnic group use sticky rice from Muong Bo, which are round seeds with a sweet scent. This sticky rice will look like smooth, shining beads. Before staining, the seeds are rubbed and then soaked in water at a moderate temperature for 6 to 8 hours. The seeds will form grains, and are then divided into 5 sections and soaked in the colors. Rice that is soaked in color for 2 to 3 hours will be the most beautiful. If not soaked for long enough, the rice won't have enough time to absorb the colour. If soaked for too long the color will be too strong.
When the sticky rice is steamed, the different colors are not mixed together. Mrs Ot did this by putting each part of the rice into the steamer in separate sections and used banana leaves as lining. She places the lighter colors on top and darker colors on the bottom, as this prevents the dark colors dropping on the light colors.
The five-colored sticky rice of the Tay ethnic group includes the colors: magenta, yellow, blue, violet and purple. The steamer is made by the wood carved from the "Sung" tree, using wood from this tree helps to make the food delicious and aromatic. The Tay ethnic group usually make five-colored sticky rice in the ritual of worshipping and celebrating a new house, they also make it on the 5th of May, as well as the day of the full moon in July.
Mrs Ot has just finished this process and it's time to finish cooking. Each section is scooped from the dish and it produces fresh colors, a fragrant smell and a feeling of warmth. We are relaxed from sitting by the fire and we are eagerly ready for the delicious food. The exotic colors of the sticky rice make it seem so strange, but the taste is also familiar.