Making traditional “Banh Chung” for Lunar New Year in Hoi An
- March 10, 2019
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Banh Chung is a very popular dish in Vietnam. It mainly consists of sticky rice, smashed green beans and pork (bacon). However, it is very seasonal, Vietnamese mainly eat it during the most important festival of the year: The Tet festival, which is the Vietnamese name for Lunar New Year.
The legend of ” Banh Chung”
According to the folklore, Chung cake was invented about 3,000-4,000 years ago under 6th Hung King Empire. Emperor Hung-Vuong had many sons. One day, toward the end of the year, he knew it would be time to pass his kingdom on to his successor so he decided to host a competition for his sons to have the best offer to be the next ruler.
Among the princes, some pursued literary careers. Others excelled in martial arts. Everyone has a potential to be a great King. There is the youngest prince named Tiet – Lieu (also called Lang Lieu), however, he and his wife and their children chose the countryside where they farmed the land so he understand all conditions of the people most. He was so nervous about the King offerings that, while sleeping at night, he dreamt about a Fairy man advised him to choose a gift that intimated with farmers. Next day, in his search, Lang Lieu saw that the rice in his paddy fields was ripe and ready to be harvested, walking by a glutinous rice field, he picked some golden grains on a long stalk. He brought them close to his nose and he could smell a delicate aroma. He immediately remembered his dream the other night and decided to choose these as the ingredients for his offer to royal King Vuong.
He and his small family got to work right away, Tiet-Lieu himself ground the glutinous rice grains into fine flour. His wife mixed it with water into a soft paste. His children helped by building a fire and wrapping the cakes with leaves. In no time, they finished, and in front of them lay two kinds of cakes: one was round and the other was square in shape. The round cake was made with glutinous rice dough and was called “banh day” by Tiet-Lieu symbolizing the sky we live under to, represent farmer’s desire for good weather. He named the square shaped cake “banh chung” which he made with rice, green beans and pork wrapped in leaves symbolizing the Earth to reflect people’s wish for a bumper crop. These factors are the core of water rice culture in thousands of years.
The King was impressed by its taste by only using local ingredients, which also shows a great respect to the culture and the ancestors. None of the other dishes could compete with the Banh Chung made by Lang Lieu.
Since the cakes he offered were of special meaning and delicious taste, Lang Lieu was selected to be the next Emperor. Since then, in honor of this 6th Prince, Vietnamese people always make and have Chung cake in the Lunar New Year.
Up to now, Chung cake has become the most famous and irreplaceable traditional Vietnamese food in Tet Holiday. This legend aims to remind the next generations of the ancient tradition as well as the primary of Chung cake. Besides, it emphasizes the important role of rice and nature in water rice culture.
How to make a “Banh Chung”?
In contrast to the fast food in modern life, the process of making Chung cake is time-consuming and requires the contribution of several people.
Main ingredients are glutinous rice, pork meat, and green beans wrapped in a square of Dzong leaves that will give the rice a green color after boiling. The sticky rice must be very good and was soaked in water in the previous day. The longer the rice was soaked, the better the cake will be. Rice cake is wrapped in square shape, and the wrapping power must be neither tight nor loose. Then the cake will be boiled in about 12 hours by wood, which means it will take whole night to make it done. By this time, in a typical Vietnamese family, they will use this time to cozily sit together, watch the pot from not being drained, refill water in the pot and chat with family, friends and loved one.
The Green Chung cake has nutrition with an original tasty flavor and may be kept for a long time. Eating Chung cake with vegetable pickles or crispy fried and dip into chili sauce will bring you unforgettable taste
In the traditional conception of Vietnamese people, the process of making Chung cake is the opportunity for family to come together. Sitting around the warm fire, all members in the family tell one another the past stories and are ready for a New Year with wishes of best things. Nowadays, in some big cities, the business lifestyle of modern society prevent people from preparing the cake, however, the habit of worship ancestors with Chung cake never changes. It is the evidence of the Vietnamese loyalty and deep gratitude to ancestors.
This year, Blue Lotus Workshop proudly bring you the most local and unique experience of making Chung cake. You will be able to try warping your own Chung cake, have some rice wine and enjoy the New Year atmosphere in Vietnam