Bánh Chưng

Bánh chưng is a Vietnamese square sticky rice cake made of glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork, all wrapped in lá dong leaves.

Lastest Updated January 6, 2024
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Fact: According to history legend, bánh chưng represents the Earth.

Flag of Vietnam#42 in Vietnam

Basic Information

Bánh Chưng: Basic Information

Pronunciation

bahn choong

Alternative Name(s)

No

Dish Type

Glutinous rice dishes

Course

Main Course

Mealtime

Anytime
Origin and Region

Bánh Chưng: Origin and Region

Origin

Vietnam

Continent’s Region

Southeast Asia

Country’s Region

Nationwide Origin

Associated Region

Unspecified
Vietnam Map
A Deep Dive

Popular Bánh Chưng Variations

Ingredients and Preparation

Bánh Chưng: Ingredients and Preparation

Main Ingredients

Glutinous rice, mung beans, pork belly

Main Cooking Method

Boiling

Preparation Process

Soak glutinous rice and mung beans overnight. Prepare pork belly with salt and pepper. Wrap ingredients in lá dong leaves to form a square shape. Tie with bamboo string. Boil for 6-8 hours until cooked through. Press under a weight and allow to cool before serving.
A Deep Dive

Bánh Chưng: A Deep Dive

Cultural Significance

Symbol of gratitude to ancestors and Earth, essential during Tết festival

Taste

Savory

Texture

Dense and sticky from glutinous rice, with a soft filling

Aroma

Mild

Color

Green outer leaves, green sticky rice, yellow mung beans, and pinkish pork

Serving Style

Cut into squares and served on a plate

Serving Temperature

At room temperature or slightly warm

Accompaniment

Often served with pickled vegetables or traditional dishes (e.g., giò, giò thủ, chả lụa, thịt kho tàu)

Occasions

New Year, Festivals

Seasons

Year-round, spring

Special Diets

Gluten-free

Calories

Around 1700 – 2000 calories for each cake

Popularity

Vietnam

Popular Similar Dishes

Bánh Tét

Popular Dining Area

Households in Vietnam

Bánh chưng (or square sticky rice cake) is a traditional Vietnamese rice cake made from glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork, all wrapped in a green leaf called lá dong (dong leaves).

Banh Chung Infographic

The origin of bánh chưng is associated with the Hùng Dynasty, and this rice cake has a special meaning in Vietnam, especially during the Tết holiday (Vietnamese Lunar New Year).

Besides the above information, you’ll uncover how Vietnamese make and present bánh chưng and how locals pair it with other food. With endless creativity, locals also have different variants of this square sticky rice cake based on region.

It is also important to know what benefits and potential drawbacks of savoring bánh chưng, and what makes it differ from bánh tét, another traditional rice cake of Vietnamese origin.

Ultimately, pay attention to some popular questions about bánh chưng and its similar dishes. Wait no more, let’s scroll to discover this Vietnamese square sticky rice cake!

Key Points

  • Bánh chưng consists of glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork, wrapped in lá dong leaves.
  • The cake is associated with the Hùng Dynasty in Vietnam.
  • It symbolizes the Earth, traditionally made for Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) and the Hung King’s Anniversary.
  • Bánh chưng is available in several varieties.
  • It is different from cylindrical bánh tét.

What Is the History and Symbolic Meaning of Bánh Chưng?

Bánh chưng has roots in the Hùng Dynasty, around 1700-1630 BC in Vietnam. It originated from a contest held by the 6th Hùng King to choose his successor, where each prince had to present a dish honoring their ancestors for the Tết festival (Vietnamese Lunar New Year).

The 18th prince, Lang Liêu, created bánh chưng, a square sticky rice cake, along with bánh giầy, a round rice cake, using simple, readily available ingredients. Bánh chưng creation symbolizes the Earth, and bánh giầy represents the sky, which won him the throne.

Today, bánh chưng is a staple during Tết and other significant events like the Hung King’s Anniversary. It features the spirit of the Vietnamese New Year and cultural tradition.

What Are the Key Ingredients of Bánh Chưng?

Bánh chưng is traditionally made from four key ingredients, such as:

Glutinous Rice

Glutinous rice

This carbohydrate component provides a sticky texture.

Mung beans

Mung beans

These are hulled and split beans. When cooked, mung beans have a subtle, earthy flavor and creamy texture to complement the glutinous rice and pork.

Pork

Pork

Usually, a fatty cut like pork belly is used to add moisture to bánh chưng. The pork is seasoned, often with pepper and shallots, and placed in the center of the cake.

La Dong

Lá dong leaves

Those above ingredients are placed and wrapped in lá dong leaves.

Plus, the preparation process of bánh chưng requires skills and attention. So let’s see how complicated it is in the next part.

How To Prepare And Present Bánh Chưng?

Here are some brief introductions to bánh chưng preparation and presentation in Vietnam.

For Preparation

Step 1: Soak Ingredients

Soak rice and mung beans overnight.

Step 2: Assemble Ingredients

Layer the leaves, rice, mung bean paste, and seasoned pork in a square mold.

Step 3: Wrap Ingredients in Leaves

Wrap tightly into a square shape in lá dong leaves and tie with bamboo string.

Step 4: Cook Bánh Chưng

Boil the rice cake for 6-8 hours, ensuring they remain submerged in water.

Step 5: Press to Flatten Bánh Chưng

Remove it from water, press to flatten, and allow to cool.

For Presentation

Step 1: Discard the Leaves

Once cooled, cut the string and unfold the leaves.

Step 2: Slice Bánh Chưng

Slice the cake into smaller squares for serving

Step 3: Present it on a Plate

Place on a platter and serve as part of a festive meal or at the ancestral altar.

What Are Other Vietnamese Dishes You Can Enjoy with Bánh Chưng?

Below are some typical delicacies that Vietnamese love to pair with bánh chưng to enhance the overall flavors and textures.

Gio

Giò is a Vietnamese steamed boiled pork sausage offering a smooth and firm texture. People often cut it into slices or bite-sized pieces for pairing with xôi gấc.

Gio Thu

Includes pork head parts, stir-fried with wood ear mushrooms, wrapped, and pressed in leaves.

Cha Lua

Known as giò lụa in Northern and chả lụa in Southern part. Made from finely ground pork tenderloin, fish sauce, and wrapped in banana leaves before boiling.

Thit Kho Tau

Also known as caramelized pork and eggs, known for its tender pork and caramelized eggs.

What Are Bánh Chưng Variations?

Varieties of bánh chưng are diverse based on the region in Vietnam. The ingredients of these variations are slightly different from traditional ones. Here are some examples.

Banh Chung Cam

Traditional to ethnic groups in Northern Vietnam, such as the Tày, Thái, and Dao; made with sticky rice mixed with fine ash from burnt straw.

Banh Chung Gac

Features red sticky rice with the rich aroma of gac fruit.

Banh Chung Gu

A variety found in the northern mountainous regions of Vietnam; made with typical ingredients and seasoned with crushed roasted pepper. Some have black-colored glutinous rice (from the charcoal ash).

Banh Chung Nghe An

In Nghe An, these are paired in twos and shaped like truncated pyramids, not square as usual.

Banh Chung Ngu Sac

A five-colored cake including green from pandan leaves, yellow from turmeric, red from gac fruit, purple from black sticky rice or magenta plant. The rice is separated by temporary leaves in the mold before being mixed and wrapped.

Banh Chung Nhan Ca

Instead of pork, they use chicken or salmon as filling.

Banh Chung Nhat Le

Hails from Hue with similar ingredients as traditional bánh chưng

Pros and Cons of Eating Bánh Chưng

Refer to the table below for detailed pros and cons of consuming bánh chưng.

Pros

  • Cultural Significance: Bánh Chưng is a traditional Vietnamese dish with a special meaning, especially during the Tết holiday.
  • Symbolic Meaning: Bánh Chưng’s square shape symbolizes the Earth, and it’s a way to show respect to ancestors and the past.
  • Nutrient-Rich: The mung beans and pork provide protein, while the rice offers energy-providing carbohydrates.

Cons

  • Caloric Density: The cake is rich in carbohydrates and fats.
  • Time-Consuming Preparation: The process of making Bánh Chưng is quite labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Next, you’ll see how to distinguish bánh chưng and its similar delicacy, bánh tét.

Bánh Chưng and Bánh Tét, How Do They Differ?

Both bánh chưng and bánh tét have significant roles in Vietnamese cuisine, but how are they different? The table below will show you.

Keep reading in the next section for further information about commonly asked questions about bánh chưng.

Bánh Chưng FAQs

Bánh chưng is typically cut into square or rectangular slices and can be eaten as is or fried for a crispy texture.

When refrigerated, it can last for up to a week. It can also be frozen for several months. However, it should be consumed within a few days if kept at room temperature.

Yes, it can be reheated. It can be steamed to warm it up or sliced and pan-fried for a crispy exterior.

Similar Dishes of Bánh Chưng

Banh Tet

Bánh tét is a Southern Vietnamese cylindrical rice cake with mung bean and pork, wrapped in banana leaves.

Truc Tran (Kris)

Truc Tran (Kris)

Senior Food Editor

Expertise

Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Baking and Pastry, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Vietnamese Food Evaluation Expert

Education

  • Hospitality (Commercial Cookery) at TasTAFE
  • Culinary Arts at Kendall College (Australia Branch in Sydney)
  • Vietnamese Cuisine Head Chef at HNAAu School (Vietnam, International Joint Training Program)

Truc Tran (Kris), an experienced food writer and editor, is great at exploring and describing global cuisines, from simple street food to fancy dining. In her writing, she skillfully mixes different flavors, cooking methods, and culinary traditions, showing the unique character of various cultures through their food and drinks. On azcuisines.com, Kris highlights her knowledge, especially in Asian cuisine and worldwide traditional dishes.

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