Tet holiday is not only the time for many fascinating cultural activities but also a big traditional food festival. Banh Chung is an important dish that any food tray would have during Tet. Despite the simple appearance, it holds significant value to the Vietnamese people. Therefore, don’t forget to try this specialty during your upcoming Vietnam travel!
1. How is Chung cake (Banh Chung) made?
Since Banh Chung is a popular Vietnamese food, you can easily find one at any market or grocery store. However, the locals love to make it themselves, since the preparation of Banh Chung also makes a good occasion to spend time with their family.
1.1. Banh Chung ingredients
- “Dong” leaves
- High-quality glutinous rice
- Fatty pork
- Mung beans
- Sliced shallots
- Spices: salt, fish sauce, pepper, etc.
1.2. How to make Banh Chung?
Although a Chung cake may look simple, lots of time and effort are required in order to make a good one. It is a whole-day-long affair, with preparations being made the previous day.
The locals have to soak the glutinous rice and mung beans in water for a day and marinate the fatty pork with salt, fish sauce, shallots, and pepper for several hours. To form the square shape of Vietnam Banh Chung, people normally use a wooden mold to wrap it, while those with more experience can wrap it perfectly with just their hands.
The locals will use 4-5 dong leaves to wrap the chung cake. Once the leaves have been laid out, it is time to put the ingredients inside, starting with a layer of glutinous rice, then a layer of mung beans, a layer of fatty pork, one more layer of mung beans, and a final layer of rice. After that, they use bamboo strings, which are also soaked in water in advance, to make the square shape of Banh Chung.
Finally, the chung cake is boiled for 10-12 hours until the rice is cooked through, softened, and perfectly blended into a sticky and savory cake.
1.3. How can a chung cake be considered good?
A good Chung cake is meaty, hefty, and has an almost perfectly square shape. As easy as it might sound, making Banh Chung cake requires meticulous care at every step.
A good Chung cake tastes incredible. The dong leaves bring along a unique aroma and green color to the cake. Also, the rich ingredients inside match well with each other, altogether bringing a scrumptious taste.
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1.4. How to eat Banh Chung?
Vietnamese people tend to eat Banh Chung with molasses or sugar, along with vegetable pickles. Because each family will prepare at least 5-6 chung cakes for Tet, it is hard to finish all of them in just 1 or 2 days. A chung cake can be stored for a month if you put it in the refrigerator. You can reheat the cake to make it as hot as a newly-made one, or simply slice it into small pieces and pan-fry it. “A fried Banh Chung is very crispy and appetizing when combined with sweet chili sauce.
The origin of chung cake dates back to 3000 – 4000 years ago, during the Hong Bang Dynasty. When the 6th Hung King was too old to rule the nation, he held a cooking contest for his 21 sons to find the right one to inherit his throne.
Most of the princes offered luxurious delicacies. Meanwhile, the 18th son of the king, Prince Lang Lieu, who was too poor to afford such foods, simply made 2 different cakes: a square and a round one. The square one is later called Banh Chung, which symbolized the Land of Vietnam (while the round one, later called banh day, symbolized the Sky). Since both of his cakes were delicious and had a deep meaning, the prince was chosen to be the next King.
Since then, Chung cake has been an indispensable traditional dish that cannot be missed during the Lunar New Year holiday.
3. The significance of Banh Chung for the Lunar New Year
It is no exaggeration to say that Banh Chung is the symbol of the Vietnamese Tet holiday. It is not only an offering to the ancestors but also a must-have food in every Tet food tray. Additionally, the preparation of Banh Chung also brings a chance for Vietnamese families to share joyful moments together.
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4. Where to buy Banh Chung on your trip to Vietnam?
Nowadays, when the modern world has brought along many delectable and eye-catching foods, Banh Chung still retains its position. This dish can be found everywhere in the S-shaped country, not only during Tet holiday but also on regular days. Especially, in big cities and hot tourist destinations, such as Hanoi, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Phu Quoc, etc., it is easy to find Banh Chung at food stalls and restaurants. A full Banh Chung price is around 40,000 – 80,000 VND, while a piece of fried chung cake will cost you around 10,000 – 30,000 VND only.
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To Vietnamese people, Banh Chung (Chung cake) is more than a dish to enjoy. It is the soul of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year holiday and how the locals show respect to their ancestors. Tet holiday without Banh Chung is like Thanksgiving without turkey. Tet is drawing near, so if you want to see how special Banh Chung is to Vietnamese people, plan your trip now!