Rice Bombs ala Mode

After dinner last evening, of which Them Boyz approved to the extent that they suggested repeatedly that it still needed an indefinable “something”*.  The Mister took a moment away from his dishwashing duties to remind the Lazy Cook of another meal fed to Them Boyz involving the Hmong’s Rice Bombs. It has since been filed under the heading: Rice Bombs are sooooo good…..

I started cooking for the Mister’s musical trio as a matter of sheer practicality. The Mister has an entrenched genetic predisposition that causes his jaw to flap well beyond time constraints imposed by other appointments or the lateness of the hour. This has, on more than one occasion, led to worried evenings and snippy words.

As I am not a believer in nagging (it’s tiresome), I went to the Mister and offered a compromise: I’ll cook for all of you, if you practice here on Monday evenings and end it at 10 pm sharp. That way, you don’t have to worry about the food you are getting other places and I don’t have to worry about whether you are just standing around jawin’ at Rog well past midnight or run off the road on the way home into an inaccessible holler where you won’t be found for 6 months. (The Lazy Cook does tend toward catastrophic thinking)

It turned out to be a win/win/win/win: I got 2 more Monday evening Test Monkeys for my food related experiments, the Mister didn’t have to go hungry if he was offered something he felt he shouldn’t eat, Them Boyz got to eat mostly decent offerings and, most importantly, peace was kept in the household.

But the Lazy Cook does have a life beyond her Mister and the quest for an engaging experiment. On occasion I will teach classes or go to yoga. On those evenings, I prepare something in advance or we will buy a prepackaged food for the Mister to throw together if need be.

Prior to one such occasion, we were doing a Saturday shop-a-thon. We make a list of items needed, then drive into the nearby city and work our way home by way of several general stores. These either have things specifically on the list or we look for deals or new things to try.

At the Hmong Market, they had just put out a fresh batch of “Rice Bombs”. I’d love to tell you what they are really called, but I’ve lost my English/Hmong/Vietnamese dictionary. Even with the best of the English speakers in the store, they are only able to describe what the Rice Bombs consist of: a filling of some sort, wrapped in a thick layer of sticky rice, enveloped in green bamboo leaves. This is the equivalent of a workman’s lunch break sandwich. It can be easily held in one hand, it’s filling and tasty. For the best flavor steam them, leaves and all, until they are hot all the way through.

I’ve had them on other occasions filled with mixed vegetables, sweet black bean paste or meat and vegetable. In this particular store, they only carried two types: a large Rice Bomb filled with white beans and shredded pieces of pork (and the occasional chunk of solid pork fat) or smaller ones filled with banana slices. Not the best I’ve ever had, but still pretty damned good.

The Rice Bombs have never carried a label. It’s sort of the Hmong version of: If you have to ask, you obviously don’t belong here. So, if you want to eat a Rice Bomb, you take it on faith.

The Mister and I were walking around the store discussing the upcoming Monday evening meal. We had agreed on the pre-made entrée, but I was thinking more along the lines of an after dinner sweet.

“How about some Tapioca Sticks with sesame?” I offered. “We have vanilla Toffuti. You could scoop it up with the sticks.”

The Mister seemed unconvinced. I think it was a little too Low Tea and dainty for his taste.

“How about,” he countered, “the little Rice Bombs with Toffuti?” The Mister does like his bananas. And I agreed that the combination of warm sticky rice, banana and sweetened tofu goo would be a good, simple to prep, dessert. So, it was settled.

I go off to teach my class and arrive back at the house late on Monday evening. Them Boyz are gone, the Mister is in the midst of his clean up chores. I put my bags and bundles down and ask how the evening went.

“It was good,” he said. “until we got to desert.”

“Wuh-oh, what happened?” I asked, with not-to-be-related visuals floating through my head.

He folded his arms, leaning back against the kitchen counter, with a slightly bemused look on his face and related the following:

Dinner had gone along fine. The food was good, the conversation pleasant. The Mister had put the small Rice Bombs into the steamer at the beginning of the meal, so they would be ready when the main course was finished.

After dinner, he fished them out of the steamer, took off the bamboo wraps, put them on small plates and carried them to the table. Here, he ladled out a big scoop of vanilla Tofutti ice cream on top of each one.

Them Boyz had never had a Rice Bomb before. But no matter, through experience they have learned to trust the Lazy Cook’s judgment on these things.

The Mister said he sat down, took his spoon and cut through the melting frozen desert and into the warm, sticky Rice Bomb. It wasn’t banana filling.

I grimaced and clenched my teeth to forestall a queasy knot forming in my stomach. “What was it?” I asked in a low voice.

“It was the Shredded Pork and White Beans.” He said, suppressing a grin.

“Oh, frack.” I said, rolling my eyes, “How did that go over?”

The Mister was now barely able to keep himself from laughing. He said, “Tom pushed the Toffuti off to one side of the plate, the Rice Bomb to the other and ate them separately.”

“And Rog?” I asked.

He leveled his gaze at me and said, “Roger stopped, looked at it, shrugged and kept eating.”

So. How good are Rice Bombs? Rice bombs are soooooo good……

* “It still needs something…” is code for: You have to make this again. As the Lazy Cook tends rest on her laurels with successful dishes. Why tinker with it if it’s already good? So, the thinking goes, if it’s “wrong”, it will be made again in an attempt to improve.


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