Vietnamese square sticky rice cake (bánh chưng) is a traditional cake that often seen on the ancestor worship altar during the Tet Holidays and King Hung’s anniversary (March 10 of the lunar calendar). For the Vietnamese, the cake is the ideal way to express gratitude to their ancestors, heaven and earth. Making Vietnamese square sticky rice cake process is also sacred and warm moment, the reunion time of family members to remind many beautiful stories of the year.
Origin and Symbolism of Vietnamese Square Sticky Rice Cake
The origin of Vietnamese square sticky rice cake can be traced to Hung dynasty, when the 6th Hung King want to select a son to inherit his position. He held a competition whoever could introduce the most delicious and meaning dish for the altar would become the next king.
While other princesses tried to find the rare and delicious foods from forest and sea, Lang Lieu – the 18th princess had a dream about the cakes. He created Square Sticky Rice Cake (Bánh Chưng) which was symbolic of the earth and Square Sticky Rice Cake (Bánh Dày) which was represented for the sky.
The green leaves wrapped on the outside and the kernel inside the intestines symbolize the gratitude of birth, the love of parents who always love and care for their children. Since the cakes had a special meaning and delicious taste, Lang Lieu was selected as a new ruler. And Bánh Chưng has become an irreplaceable traditional food on the family altars to honor the family ancestors and pray to them for support in the new year.
How to Make Vietnamese Square Sticky Rice Cake?
The main ingredients are glutinous rice, pork meat, and split green bean wrapped in dong leaves (Phrynium placentarium leaf) or banana leaves. However, if the cake wants to be delicious, it requires a lot of patience and meticulousness.
Glutinous rice and split green beans must be very good long-grain and. They have to be soaked in water in the previous day. Pork meat must have both lean and fat, normally a part of pork belly will be choose, so that when the cake is cooked, the fat will blend with the soft lean part to create fat, flexibility and deliciousness. Dong leaves or banana leaves must be green, large and even. Rice cake is wrapped in square or tubular shape, and the wrapping power by bamboo strings must be neither tight nor loose. Then the cake will be boiled in about 10 – 12 hours.
Staying around the warm fire, all members in the family recount stories of the past and exchange wishes for health and prosperity for a New Year. Currently, in some modern cities, the lifestyle has changed, however the way of worshiping ancestors with Bánh Chưng won’t be change as its Vietnamese Culture.
Variations of Vietnamese square sticky rice cake
Bánh Chưng has a variation in shapes, the most popular are the square which is quite often seen in the North or cylindrical one (called Bánh Tét) is usually appeared in the Middle and South of Vietnam. Also about the ingredients, each regions may use difference ingredients to create Bánh Chưng, especially about sticky rice. Vietnam is a developed country of wet rice, so it produces a lot of different types of sticky rice…in both color and flavor. Bánh Chưng is also available in a vegetarian version, which is mostly used for worship.
And how to enjoy it? The cake needs to be cut into small slices. Steamed or fried cakes are available options. Normally, Vietnamese square sticky rice cake will be served with vegetable pickles or pickled scallion heads, dipping with fish source or soy source…
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