The great banh chung, banh giay bake off

14:33 | 20/02/2018 Culture & Art

(VEN) - Every year, from the 15th to the 17th day of the first lunar month, a contest is held at the Con Son-Kiep Bac relic site in Hai Duong Province to pick the best banh chung (square sticky rice cakes) and banh giay (round sticky rice cakes) made by participants. The event attracts tens of thousands of local residents and visitors.

the great banh chung banh giay bake off

Spring festival

The contest is part of the Con Son-Kiep Bac Spring Festival that takes place annually in the Red River Delta province of Hai Duong, offering participants a chance to commemorate their ancestors and at the same time forge stronger community ties. The contest brings together hundreds of participants from districts and towns throughout the province and the city of Hai Duong.

Nguyen Minh Thang, Head of the Chi Linh Relic Management Board, told Vietnam Economic News reporters that banh chung and banh giay have been an integral part of Vietnamese people’s lives since the time of the sixth Hung King of the Hung dynasty (c. 1712-1632 BC). Legend has it that the two kinds of cake were first made by Prince Lang Lieu, a son of Hung King VI. The square, green banh chung cake symbolizes the earth or mother, and the round, white banh giay symbolizes the sky or father.

Today, Vietnamese people still consider banh chung and banh giay indispensable food offerings for their ancestors on specific occasions, especially the Lunar New Year (Tet).

In an effort to improve public awareness of traditional cultural values, the provincial people’s committee has implemented a project to upgrade the Con Son-Kiep Bac Festival and restore many rituals, folk games and traditional activities, including the banh chung and banh giay contest. It has been held annually since 2013 as an expression of people’s gratitude to their ancestors and spirits.

“The contest attracts most visitors to Hai Duong on the occasion of the annual Con Son-Kiep Bac Spring Festival. It reminds us of our obligation to preserve and bring into play traditional cultural values of the nation,” Thang said.

Traditional culture

All materials used to make banh chung and banh giay in the contest, including glutinous rice, pork, mung beans, packaging leaves and spices, are sourced from local farmers. Under the contest’s regulations, each team of participants will use 6.8kg of glutinous rice to make 10 banh chung (five cakes with pork and five without pork) within 10 minutes. They have to use all the ingredients. After being assessed and graded by the judges for their appearance, the cakes will be boiled for seven hours.

For those making banh giay, each team has to prepare five cakes within 45 minutes. Banh giay must be made of high-quality glutinous rice and the water used to steam it must be drawn from the Gieng Ngoc (Pearl Well) in Con Son Pagoda.

Each cake must be decorated with two words: “Phuc” (good luck) and “Tho” (longevity) in red color. The cakes must be placed on red lacquer trays.

At the end of the contest, the winning cakes will be used as food offerings for Saint Tran, known as Tran Hung Dao, the Supreme Commander of Vietnam during the Tran Dynasty, and Nguyen Trai, a national hero and world cultural celebrity. The cakes without meat will be offered to the Buddha in Con Son Pagoda or used as offerings for heaven and earth on Ngu Nhac Mountain.

The winning team will participate in a similar contest at a national level that takes place annually in Hung Temple, Phu Tho Province, on the death anniversary of the Hung Kings on the 10th day of the third lunar month.

The banh chung, banh giay making contest in Hai Duong is not simply a competition but a meaningful event that helps improve public awareness of the role of farmers and value of agricultural products, while reflecting the culinary distinctions of the Vietnamese people.

Quynh Nga & Hoa Quynh