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Rice Papadum? It reminds me of one of our favorite street snacks in the childhood, pop rice cake -- this pop rice man wheeled his cart from street to street; shouting here I am, then we brought our own rice and he popped it for you, so he charged for the labour and the machinery. A handful of rice would blow up to a big tray of pop rice cake. The few 'luxuries' we had in the olden days. It was a treat that mum gave you a little cup of rice and you came home with a big bag of squarely cut up pop rice cakes.
That little girl in the video is beautiful.


Was she on her way to school picking up breakfast? That's the sort of things I would have done in the olden days en route to school. Mum gave you a bit of money and you chose your own breakfast - a memory to be treasured.


I visited Luang Namtha back in -98 and remenber that we had difficulties finding anything to eat at all, maybe besides instant noodles. The world certainly is changing...


Yup Luang Namtha is one weird complicated place. It has gone rapid growth in such a short period of time.
I had one of the worst meals of my life there. It was so bad I was sick in the street outside the restaurant.

Beth @ 74days.com

I absolutely adore this website! I'll be sure to check back as our trip through New Zealand & Asia continues!


I think that this is made from cassava or taro flour. I'm fairly certain not from rice. but I will ask.


Yes, it is made from cassava flour.


Katy - more info please. What did you call this puffed rice treat? And how did the vendor cry out "Here I am". (Not "Wo laile"?).
Interesting. I didn't think you could 'pop' just any old rice but I guess you can? Or was it special rice?
Yes btw she was on her way to school -- per my expanded text above (prompted by your question).

Tone - I wouldn't say that there's a huge selection of food/eateries in Luang Namtha, but there is some good stuff, especially at a 'resort' on the river outside of town called The Boat Landing. The resto there does dishes of various ethnicities, Akha and etc -- it's all quite delicious.

Mzungu - hm. Well, we didn't have any experience like that! There was recently an excellent article in the New Straits Times (Sing) abt the changes taking place in Luang Namtha. The town felt unsettled and a little bit strange. But pple were generally quite friendly. There's a huge amount of Chinese and more recently Vietnamese money sloshing around there.

Thanks Beth.

Bill, thanks for that, I've made the change in the text as per your comment. Something like the cassava 'pancakes' one sees laid out to dry in Luang Prabang? Except those don't puff when over the fire, they simply firm up.

kees Sprengers

Robyn, do you have a link for that article in the Straights Times?
I'd like to read it


Hi Kees - I misspoke, it's a Straits Times blog post by their reporter. At any rate, here you go:


Honestly I felt there could have been a bit more incisive look at the rubber plantation issue. We were astounded by how much of the area around LN has been, and is being converted. And we talked to many locals who have mixed feelings abt it, and other developments.


It was called 爆米香, though pronounced in Taiwanese dialect.The first character actually means to explode. It perhaps best described as ‘pop rice bar’ as it was like the cereal rice bar we now have. I call it pop because it was done in the same way as pop corn, ie the seed or grain popped, instead of puffed. This machinery was like a miniature cannon attached to a net and it made a noise which I would describe similar to mini explosion when popping rice into the net – these little pops then scooped, poured in syrup of a sort and sat on a tray until cooled, he then cut it into bars and bag. It was great fun for kids, the noise and everything. It took about 20 minutes to get the rice popped, cooled and bagged, so we hang out with kids from the neighborhood while waiting. I’ll ask my Taiwan old things collector friend back home, see what I can find out from him, maybe a picture if he has any. I am sure it was rice, food was scarce, there weren’t many other stuff to use and they came out big and white and tasted rice. But I’ll check what kind of rice.

‘Here I am’, I just meant, he cried out 爆米香 when he came – usually in late afternoon when we got back home from school. There weren’t many shops around in those days –in early morning, we got breakfast vendor, selling the usual pickles, soy bean tofu variations, meat floss…etc. Afternoon, pop rice men sometimes came about 4/5 pm. Then late evening, especially in cool weather, there came 麵茶人 man selling seasoned tossed flour tea – a traditional Taiwanese snack. I heard them, but didn’t see them, at midnight. I was talking about like 40 years ago though.

If any reader had experience of the 'pop rice' man, be happy to hear.

I couldn’t image pancake made of cassava or taro flour puff like that over fire as in the show? It must be something to do with rice especially if you said it was light and fluffy and melty? Or is it a mixture of ingredients to get it puffed like that? Intrigued!

When you mention Chinese and Vietnams in LN/northern Lao, I think of MSG! Now I think of rubber too! This mini post is puffing out some interesting stuff…


Here is a blog post about 爆米香,I call it pop rice because it reminds me of pop corn and the word explosion, but of course you can just call it puffed rice cake. The writer told that when she heard the 'explosion', she'd run to ask her mummy for some rice and money and join the line. That was my experience too. Watch the video and you will see how it's done.

And yes, it is just ordinary white rice we use at home.And apparently you find/found this in China too.



Thanks Katy for that trip down memory lane in Taiwan. I love to hear/read memories of ambulatory vendors, anywhere. All we have now in our neighborhood is the truck with the loudspeaker: old newspaper old newspaper, bao bao boji baobao boji, paper lama paper lama .... Although it is kind of cute because one of the truck drivers has had his little kid record the singsong.

I never saw that in Shanghai but we did see that contraption, the exploding thing, on Sumatra, Indonesia. I'm not sure we ever posted it, come to think.


hmmm papadum, i like masal papadum onions and tomato as topping. Like your post.
even great video to watch.



I found an old picture of a street vendor in the Northeast of CHina in the 1980s selling just that: popped rice. Everyone rushed to his stall when one heard these loud bangs. I remember we were watching the tv news featuring a war, and then hearing those explosions outside, making it very surreal! Have a look: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattebelletje/3259220940/

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