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The Legend of Rice Cakes: Banh Chung & Banh Day, Vietnamese Cultural Week with Aristotle
Aristotle
post May 30 2010, 09:45 PM
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Hi! Welcome to AF cultural week with Aristotle.

Today (or tonight) I will be talking about Vietnamese special occasion foods, Banh Chung and Banh Day. These two rice cakes are very popular among Vietnamese because for one; they’re traditional food, and secondly; there are special meanings behind it through the legend that is told. They’re a traditional foods that symbolize the simplicity of Vietnamese people and the abundant of nutritious resources of our country. They’re eaten mostly for Lunar New Year, other celebrations, and ceremonies.

Banh Chung
In my family, every Year during Tet, for the first three days, I had Banh Chung for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. Why? Because I can, it is so good. However, keep in mind that not the only food we ate on Vietnamese New Year. Anyways, so what does it look like? From the outside; it is a square cake, warped in banana leaves with flexible bamboo silvers, and from the inside; the outer layers is made of sticky rice, the second layer is made from beans paste, and finally the core or the central layer is made from pork, both fat and lean.

What is the significance of Banh Chung? The square shape is a symbol of thankfulness of the Vietnamese people for the abundance nutritious resources for food that earth provides throughout the four seasons, as stated earlier.




Also, keep in mind that in reality Banh Chung also comes in different shapes. However, traditionally, it should be square. So for you liberal and radical out there, stop messing around with the shape.

Banh Day
On the other hand, Banh Day is often eaten at festival and ceremonies. And I am sure you can pick it up at a Vietnamese local store. The cake is almost the same as Banh Chung, but without the square shape and the bamboo silk in place. It is a rounded, convex cake of glutinous or nep rice (sticky rice), which resembles white dough, soft and sticky. Its cupola-shaped top is said to resemble the shape of the heavenly vault.




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The Legend of Banh Chung and Tet Celebration
Emperor Hung-Vuong had many sons. Some pursued literary careers. Others excelled in martial arts. The youngest prince named Lang Lieu, however, loved neither. Instead, he and his wife and their children chose the countryside where they farmed the land.

One day, toward the end of the year, the emperor met with all his sons. He told them whoever brought him the most special and unusual food would be made the new emperor. Almost immediately, the princes left for their homes and started looking for the most delicious food to offer the emperor. Some went hunting in the forests and brought home birds and animals which they prepared into the most palatable dishes. Some others sailed out to the open sea, trying to catch fish, lobsters and other much loved sea food. Neither the rough sea nor the violent weather could stop them from looking for the best gifts to please the emperor.

In his search, Lang Lieu went back to the countryside. He saw that the rice in his paddy fields was ripe and ready to be harvested, Walking by a glutinous rice field, he picked some golden grains on a long stalk. He brought them close to his nose and he could smell a delicate aroma.

His entire family then set out to harvest the rice, Lang Lieu himself ground the glutinous rice grains into fine flour. His wife mixed it with water into a soft paste. His children helped by building a fire and wrapping the cakes with leaves. In no time, they finished, and in front of them lay two kinds of cakes: one was round and the other was square in shape.

The round cake was made with glutinous rice dough and was called "banh day" by Lang Lieu. He named the square shaped cake "banh chung" which he made with rice, green beans wrapped in leaves. Everybody was extremely happy with the new kind of cakes.

On the first day of Spring, the princes took the gifts of their labor and love to the emperor. One carried a delicious dish of steamed fish and mushrooms. Another brought with him a roasted peacock and some lobsters. All the food was beautifully cooked.

When it was Lang Lieu's turn to present his gifts, he carried the "banh chung" and his wife carried the "banh day" to the emperor. Seeing Lang Lieu's simple offerings, other princes sneered at them. But after tasting all the food brought to court by his sons, the emperor decided that the first prize should be awarded to Lang Lieu.

The emperor then said that his youngest son's gifts were not only the purest, but also the most meaningful because Lang Lieu had used nothing except rice which was the basic foodstuff of the people to make them. The emperor gave up the throne and make Lang Lieu the new emperor. All the other princes bowed to show respect and congratulated the new emperor.

This post has been edited by Aristotle: May 31 2010, 09:53 PM
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cocoloco
post May 30 2010, 10:38 PM
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I love that story. It shows how the most simple common things in life is also the most special. beerchug.gif
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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 12:32 PM
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I love bánh chưng, but not bánh giầy.
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Kaosq
post May 31 2010, 04:58 PM
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QUOTE (XigonCongchua @ May 31 2010, 10:32 AM) *
I love bánh chưng, but not bánh giầy.

Really? For me, it's the other way around lol.
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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 04:59 PM
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QUOTE (Kaosq @ May 31 2010, 02:58 PM) *
Really? For me, it's the other way around lol.

What? Are you sure? icon_confused.gif Banh giay is too sticky for me.
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sexykitten
post May 31 2010, 05:28 PM
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mmmmmmmm............. yummy!
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Kaosq
post May 31 2010, 05:36 PM
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QUOTE (XigonCongchua @ May 31 2010, 02:59 PM) *
What? Are you sure? icon_confused.gif Banh giay is too sticky for me.

Yea, I can't stand bánh chưng, even during Tết haha. On the other hand, bánh giầy is so good with chả lụa. Btw, if you turn the bánh giầy inside out, it's not as sticky.
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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 05:37 PM
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QUOTE (Kaosq @ May 31 2010, 03:36 PM) *
Yea, I can't stand bánh chưng, even during Tết haha. On the other hand, bánh giầy is so good with chả lụa. Btw, if you turn the bánh giầy inside out, it's not as sticky.

Go away. Banh chung is the best! I love it and eat it even when it's not New Year.
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Kaosq
post May 31 2010, 05:40 PM
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In bánh chưng's defense, at least it's better than bánh tét...
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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 05:41 PM
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By the way, the name of the prince is Lang Lieu not Tiet Lieu
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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 05:48 PM
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Modern Reenactment of the Rice cakes Legend made by University Students biggthumpup.gif
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9V72n_l3Cgk...feature=related

This post has been edited by XigonCongchua: May 31 2010, 06:11 PM
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hugo boss
post May 31 2010, 06:02 PM
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Bánh chưng is a traditional Vietnamese rice cake which was consumed by warriors on the battlefields thousands of years ago owing to it being conveniently wrapped and preserved.

Bánh chưng was also very popular to use for soldiers rations on the battlefield, they were easy to carry with you since they already had there own wrapper.



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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 06:03 PM
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^ Whoever wrote that must have little knowledge about Vietnamese culture.
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daxas24
post May 31 2010, 06:04 PM
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QUOTE (XigonCongchua @ May 31 2010, 05:48 PM) *
Modern Reactment of the Rice cakes Legend made by University Students biggthumpup.gif
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9V72n_l3Cgk...feature=related

I would have let No 8th win. I love to learn how to make those roses
The dude who spins books was also hilarious.
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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 06:06 PM
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They probably confuse bánh chưng and leaf cakes (cakes wrapped in leaves) in general. There are many types of Vietnamese cakes that are wrapped in leaves, and yea they were convenient and commonly carried by people who had little time to sit down and have proper meals with their families.
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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 06:11 PM
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QUOTE (daxas24 @ May 31 2010, 04:04 PM) *
I would have let No 8th win. I love to learn how to make those roses
The dude who spins books was also hilarious.

I know embarassedlaugh.gif

But they don't have banh chung at the end thumbsdown.gif They just have some banh giay-looking white cakes. ><
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daxas24
post May 31 2010, 06:16 PM
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QUOTE (XigonCongchua @ May 31 2010, 06:11 PM) *
I know embarassedlaugh.gif

But they don't have banh chung at the end thumbsdown.gif They just have some banh giay-looking white cakes. ><

I guess it wasn't New Year, so they couldn't buy banh chung.
The one he was making isn't gonna look good. LOL
Banh Chung takes ages to cook.
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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 06:19 PM
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The ending looks like he has won a beauty pageant. embarassedlaugh.gif
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cheebuguh
post May 31 2010, 06:42 PM
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Thanks for another story legend, it's great for me to know my culture's stories..

Does Banh Tet have a story of its own?
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XigonCongchua
post May 31 2010, 06:44 PM
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QUOTE (cheebuguh @ May 31 2010, 04:42 PM) *
Thanks for another story legend, it's great for me to know my culture's stories..

Does Banh Tet have a story of its own?

Bánh Tét is a southern version of bánh chưng. icon_smile.gif

The word Tét came from Tết. Because we eat bánh chưng in New Year, Southern Vietnamese called "bánh tết" and later the word "tết" got mispronounced and became "tét"
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