Last updated September 2021 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
Anyone who’s spent time in Vietnam’s highlands will have come across rượu nếp – rice wine. Made from fermented sticky rice, this is the liquor of choice for most Vietnamese who live at high altitudes or in the northern provinces, where winters can be bitterly cold. However, on my last visit to Cao Bang, in northeastern Vietnam, I was introduced to rượu nếp in its pure, non-liquid form: Rượu nếp hấp trứng is fermented glutinous rice mixed together with a chicken’s egg and then steamed to create a mildly alcoholic rice pudding……for breakfast.
Eaten on cold mornings as a dessert after a bowl of noodle soup, locals say it keeps the body warm and helps fight bad bacteria in the stomach. I had my first Vietnamese ‘hot toddy’ at a soup house in Cao Bang City. Crammed with local officials and families hunched over steaming bowls of noodle soup, all the customers – including the children – ordered a bowl of rượu nếp hấp trứng before leaving.
Dyed yellow from the egg yolk, this rice wine pudding has a rich, earthy, and slightly acrid aroma. The texture is smooth and lumpy, like the custard served for school dinners in primary schools in the UK. The taste is sweet and rich with a sharp alcoholic tang that seems to bite at your tongue. It won’t become a staple of mine, but on those cold, misty mornings in the mountains I’ll trust a bowl of rượu nếp hấp tứng to warm me up and keep the germs at bay. This particular bowl is served at a classic ‘no-name’ soup house in Cao Bang City: behind the market, between numbers 2 and 6 on Hồng Việt Street [MAP], although I haven’t visited in several years so I can’t vouch for its continued existence.
*Please Support Vietnam Coracle: I never receive payment for anything I write: all my content is free to read & independently financed. There’s no sponsored content whatsoever. If you like Vietnam Coracle, please consider supporting the work I do. See my Support Page for details. Thank you, Tom
Hot Toddy Rice. Wow!
Toddy is a local drink in Kerala state in South India, tapped early morning from coconut trees.
I’d certainly like to try Hot Toddy Rice. Can I find it around the Delta?
Well, I’ve never had the hot toddy in this article in the Mekong Delta, but you will certainly be able to find local rice wine there! Just ask for rượu nếp and everybody will know what you want. Rice wine is very popular in the Mekong Delta – but be warned: it’s very strong!
Can you please advise whether i have to take with me tent and sleeping bag if i”m going to ride on my push bike from Hanoi to Ho Chi Min via the Ho Chi Minh higway or I trust that acommodation and food will be availble along the way all the time.
I will start riding next week.
That’s a good question. The only stretch you really need to consider is the Western Ho Chi Minh Road – there aren’t really any places to stay for 240km. If you really do get stuck you can always ask to stay with a local – in most cases people will be willing to put you up overnight in their home. However, camping is also great fun here. But then that’s an added load for your bike.
Apart from the Western Ho Chi Minh Road you should always be able to find a nhà nghỉ (local guesthouses) for around $10 a night. Even in the smallest, most remote town there’ll be a nhà nghỉ. Read more about that here.
As part of the fermentation process I would think so, yes.