Banh chung and Banh Day

13 Jan

Let I tell you the story of my childhood which my grandma usually told us when we were young. Once upon the time, when Vietnam still was a country with jungles, mountains, rivers and caves, when our ancestors lived a very simple life to love and care of each other. In a year, the old king thought about retiring, because he wanted to take the rest of his life just to drink tea and create poetry, however, he did not know who would be chosen for the throne among his sons. As the result, nights and nights tossed and turned in bed, the king made an imperial decree “who make the most essential and delicious dish will be crown prince, due date is the new year’s date”.

Everyone in the nation was excited for this decree, they loved to look for who would inherit the throne, who would be their next king, while the princes were anxiety of thinking, experimenting, creating a special dish. The princes even invited the best chef from everywhere in the world to come and made for them the most tasted food. The environment was so much lively that no one can describe, such a vanity time.
Along with that animated society, there was a prince who was forgotten. His name was Lang Lieu, he was the son of a royal maid, thus, nobody respected him and treated him as a prince whom he was. With very little property he had, Lang Lieu cannot compete with his brothers, the scenario seemed very grey for him. Once night, when he fell asleep in the garden, the prince started his dream.

In the dream, he met an old man, the man must be very old because of his white beard, white hair, but the man had very kind smile, the man came to Lang Lieu and asked for a cup of water. With the characteristic of generosity, hospitality and good-nature, Lang Lieu brought the man a cup of tea. The worry was on the prince’s face, and by talking, the old man knew Lang Lieu’s story. Whispered into Lang Lieu’s ear, the man gave him a secret formula for cooking special dish.
Lang Lieu woke up suddenly from his weird dream, laughed at himself, but still kept in mind what the old man told him. The prince realized this could be his opportunity to change his fate, chance to get back what supposed to be his. The young man started his work.
New Year’s day came along with the deadline, the old king was expecting his sons bring him something traditional but essential. The contest came with many dishes from over the world, everything was showed in front of the king, pizza of Italian with sea foods of Baltic Sea, Indian curry with mind-blowing ingredients, hamburger from American with the best beef and cheese, etc. No matter what was showing, the king seemed upset and getting bored from the foreign foods, the performances were substandard. Finally, when the contest came to the end, there was only one show left. The young and poor prince stepped in shy and  sadly revealed his work.

The whole hall laughed at the young man, they laughed because of his simplicity, his poor, and his un respect to the king. When everyone was full of joke, the king asked his poor son “Tell me your idea”.
The son looked at his father in the eyes, took a deep breath and said “My majestic, the cakes I reveal here were made by national rice, from our field. It was our people’s try during a year. The circle cake symbolizes for the sky, the sky is circle, represents for the love and the care of a king to his people, the king hug his people into his heart, to protect them, to lead them moving forward. The square cake is the ground, the ground bring its people yield and living space, where our people work, live, get crowded, and become a stronger nation. The cakes are our sky and our ground, they are our pride and we must protect them as our life.”

The hall was fell into silence, no one cannot say anything…The king slowly told everyone in the room “I highly appreciate all your attempt to prepare such fabulous dishes, they really enchanted me. However, what is not yours, never will be yours; therefore, what you, sons, brought me today are good but not the best. I have just found my crown prince.”
Since that moment, the Sky cake and the Ground cake have become one of the most important food for new year. They are traditional cakes to remind Vietnamese about their mission and their ancestors.

My grandma told us this story every time we were together to cook the cakes and the story is kept telling by generations.
My dear friends, I have just told you the story of the Vietnamese heritage. The simple story with lots of meanings, our wish, our dream, our aspiration, I told you the story is to wish you a happy new year, with success, health, and all the best.



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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in About Saigon


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