Banh day recipe: Vietnamese sticky rice cake

From The Ravenous Couple

Banh day (pronounced yầy) is a very simple and traditional rice cake with a great story. Vietnamese legend has it that the wise King Hung Vuong the VI had a competition to decide which one of his 22 sons was going to succeed him on the throne. The competition was to find the most tasty dish in the country and serve it to the King during the last day of the lunar month. The person with the tastiest dish would inherit the throne (Top Chef eat your heart out). So each prince went off and scoured the land and seas in search of rare delicacies to make that perfect dish. The exception was one prince name Lang Lieu (Tiet Lieu). Though he was a prince by title, he was humble and lived a modest life as his mother was not the queen (in those days the king had many children with concubines). He stayed in the Vietnam to search for his inspiration. However, as the day of judgment neared, he still did not have a dish. But one day he fell asleep and in his dreams a deity appeared to him and rewarded him for his humbleness and modest life and gave him directions for two different rice dishes:

Banh Day

Banh day: Vietnamese sticky rice cake. Photo from The Ravenous Couple.

“make two different rice cakes, one square cake to symbolize the earth and in it, put mung beans and pork to symbolize the plants and animals. Finally wrap it in banana leaves and call it banh chung. With the same rice make a round rice cake to symbolize the heavens and make it white and pure and call it banh day.”

So on the last day of the lunar month, the day before the first day of spring, all the princes showed King Hung Vuong VI their dishes. Many were lavish, exotic, and delicious. But the simplest and one that intrigued the King the most was Lang Lieu’s banh day and banh chung. The king asked him to explain these dishes and Lang Lieu said,

“Rice is the most precious food item in the land and yet also the most abundant. I have created dishes that symbolize the harmony between the earth and heaven so that all of our people can enjoy.”

Realizing the humbleness and wisdom of Lang Lieu, King Hung Vuong VI, declared him the winner and successor to the throne of Vietnam. The recipes were passed to the people of Vietnam to enjoy and to this day, banh chung and banh day are served during Tet, the lunar new year by almost everyone in the country. If you heard a different version of this story…well, as legends go–it changes every time it’s told 🙂

Even though we’re 6 months ahead of the lunar new year in February 14, 2010, these dishes, especially banh day are often eaten year round. Sandwich a piece of fried cha lua (Vietnamese ham) and it becomes a Vietnamese “hamburger” that’s surprisingly tasty and brings back great memories eating this growing up. Cha lua can be found in most Asian groceries either wrapped in aluminum foil or banana leaf.


Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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