Five-color Sticky Rice is an important dish of almost all ethnic minorities in the mountainous regions of Northern Vietnam. The name of the dish comes from the fact that it has 5 colors.
However, different regions can call this dish differently. For example, the Muong ethnic group calls it Multi-color Sticky Rice; the Tay ethnic group calls it Five-color Sticky Rice, some other ethnic groups call it Dam Den Sticky Rice, etc. On the festival days or other special occasion, women find the leaves which produce different colors to make this special and interesting cuisine.
In a nutshell, the thing that creates the color of the rice is not chemical substance but the natural leaves. The five colors of the dish represent the five elements of life in the Vietnamese’s’ belief: yellow is earth, green is plant, red is fire, white is metal, and black is water. People believe that the existence of these five elements create the well-being of the heaven, the earth the human. Thus, in order to make the desired color, they have to find and gather the exact leaves. These leaves are then boiled before being put in a huge bowl with rice to create different colors.
In the past, whenever they need to make Five-color Sticky Rice, the women had to go to the forests to look for them. Luckily, nowadays, five-color sticky rice has become not only a traditional cuisine but also a delicious speciality that travelers from everywhere love. As a result, people decided to grow the trees right in their garden and then sell the leaves at the market. These naturally colorful leaves will then be used to make the wonderful sticky rice that enchants everyone.