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Banh Chung – Vietnamese food on Lunar New Year

February 16, 2015          2722 views
(Cinet)- For the Vietnamese, Banh Chung (square glutinous rice cake) is an ideal way to express gratitude to their ancestors and homeland.
Illustrative image
According to the legend, 3,000-4,000 years ago, Prince Lang Lieu made round and square cakes, with the round Day cake symbolising the sky and the square Chung cake, the Earth (under the ancient Vietnamese perception), as offerings on the occasion of Spring.
In ancient concept, the Earth is square; hence Banh Chung has a square shape to reflect the Earth. Since the cakes he offered were of special meaning and delicious taste, Lang Lieu was selected to be the next king. On a spring day on which all the princes’ labor had to be presented, Lang Lieu and his wife brought Banh Chung and Banh Day to the emperor while other princes presented such expensive and unusual dishes. Others sneered at Lieu’s cakes, but Hung Emperor was deeply impressed by the special flavor of these cakes. He asked Lieu about the meaning of these cakes. Lieu said that he had cooked the glutinous rice, then molded it into a round rice cake, and called it Banh Day as it symbolized the sky we live under; he also cooked a square rice cake, stuffed it with cooked bean paste and ground meat in the middle, and called it Banh Chung, which was symbolic of the earth we live on.
This legend aims to remind the next generations of the ancient tradition as well as the primary of Chung cake. Besides, it emphasises the important role of rice and nature in the water rice culture.In contrast to the fast food of modern times, the process of making Banh Chung is time-consuming and requires the joint work of several people.
The main ingredients are glutinous rice, pork, and green beans wrapped square in broad-blade leaves that will give the rice a green color after about 12 hours' boiling. The wrapping must be neither too tight nor too loose.
The food has a high level of nutrition with an original tasty flavor and may be kept for a long time. Eating Banh Chung with vegetable pickles will bring you unforgettable taste.
In the traditional conception of Vietnamese people, the process of making Banh Chung is an opportunity for the family’s reunion. Sitting around the fire, family members tell one another the past stories and prepare for a New Year with best wishes.