“Banh Chung” (Chung cake) is a traditional and irreplaceable cake of Vietnamese people in the Tet Holidays and King Hung’s anniversary (10th March Lunar). For the Vietnamese, making “Banh Chung” is the ideal way to express gratitude to their ancestors and homeland.
The legend of Chung cake
Chung cake was invented by the 18th Prince of Hung Emperor in the contest of looking for new Emperor. According to the legend, 3,000-4,000 years ago, Prince Lang Lieu, made round and square cakes, the round Day cake symbolizing the sky and the square Chung cake symbolizing the Earth (under the ancient Vietnamese perception), to be offered on the occasion of Spring.
In the ancient conception, the Earth is square, hence Chung cake’s shape is square, too, to reflect the Earth shape. 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 18th 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 Chung cake
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 bamboo 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. 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. The Green Chung cake has nutrition with an original tasty flavor and may be kept for a long time. Eating with vegetable pickles 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.