Last week we talked about the 7 most popular Tet foods. Today we will tell you more about Chung cake - Banh Chung - the soul of Vietnamese for Tet Holiday. The Vietnamese savory Chung cake has been praised among the World’s Top Ten traditional dishes, according to the US travel magazine National Geographic. You can’t talk about Vietnamese Lunar New Year without mentioning to Chung cake.
It dates back to the Hong Bang dynasty when the sixth Hung emperor wanted to find a successor to rule the land. He held a contest among his 21 sons, stating whoever could most satisfy his taste would be inherited his throne. While all the other princes set out to find the most expensive and exceptional ingredients, the eighteenth son, Lang Lieu, could not afford to do so. He used common ingredients in daily life and turned it to be the glutinous steamed rice cake finally. When Lang Lieu presented it to his father, he said the square-shaped cake was symbolic of the earth. The emperor was interested in and highly appreciated this unique cake. As his declaration, Lang Lieu then was the new king, and ever since, the Chung cake (rice square cake) has become the traditional food for the Vietnamese Tet holiday.
The process of making Chung Cake is time-consuming and requires the contribution of several people. Chung cake- the soul of Lunar New Year in Vietnam
• High-quality glutinous rice soaked in water for 12-14 hours
• Slices of pork, with bits of fat to make the rice tastier, seasoned with pepper and salt. Some add onions and sugar.
• Mung bean paste made from beans soaked for 2 hours
• Dong leaves properly cleaned • Giang - bamboo strings which are ideal as these bamboos have long nodes. These are first soaked in salt water or steamed until they are ribbon-like for easy wrapping.
• A square mould but not really necessary
• Filling up the square “basket” by a half bowl of glutinous rice
• Stuffing the “basket” by mung bean and a layer of pork meat in the centre. Then fill by a layer of mung bean and glutinous rice to make sure the square is full at all sides
• Wrapping the dong leaves to complete the “basket” by tying tightly the “giang” strings
• Put it in the big pot and boil around 12 hours
This is the meaningful case for family members to get together and have an intimate talk and show caring to each other. While adults are sitting in front of the stove to watch the cook, kids are playing around the warm fire, all telling stories in the old year and good wishes in the coming New Year. It’s always the time to strengthen as well as maintain the traditional features of a Vietnamese family. I still remember when I was a kid, my grandpa made Chung cake at the end of Lunar New Year and didn’t forget making a small one for me. I waited until midnight to try it. The special “taste of Tet” coming closer to me ever. I crave for such an authenticity!
Vietnamese foods are not only food but also represent Vietnam culture that people call the “taste” of Vietnam. Over years, Chung cake leaves in Vietnamese people the worth impression. The cake is made in Tet holiday to offer to Vietnamese ancestors not only include the inherent characteristics of colour, flavours but also contain the value of Vietnamese culture that carrying historical and aesthetic value. Nowadays, especially in urban areas with nuclear families of only one or few people, we don’t have time and habit to wrap Chung cake anymore. They buy it instead. But Chung cake together with a five-fruit tray is always an indispensable food for Tet holiday in Vietnam.