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How to Make Chung Cake for TET

Mary has lived in Hanoi for several years and has gone around Vietnam's beautiful cities. She and her husband have celebrated TET there.

How to Prepare Vietnamese TET Chung Cake

Chung Cake

Chung Cake

Making the Traditional Vietnamese TET Chung Cake

TET is coming and the excitement is in the air. Our hotel arranged for those interested, an afternoon of learning how to make Chung Cake or what the Vietnamese call Banh Chung, the special savoury eaten during this lunar new year celebration.

When we arrived, the demonstration has started but not really depriving us of seeing what needs to be done. The leaves called Dong are prepared into a square basket to hold sticky rice, pork, and mung bean paste. After the demonstration, we were each given bowls of rice, a plate of pork seasoned with pepper and bean paste in round balls.


Dong Leaves for your TET Chung Cake

Wrapper for Chung Cake

Wrapper for Chung Cake

Preparing the Ingredients for Chung Cake

We were then made to get our own leaves, cut these into the proper size to make the square basket. 4 leaves were needed for one basket and we helped each other hold it as one put rice, leveled it, then placed some mung bean paste (start with half of the ball) and a piece of pork in the middle. This is again covered with bean paste and then, sticky rice. Then, the basket is closed up and tied properly with the special bamboo ties placed underneath the leaves. These ties will be used to cut the cooked chung cake, usually into 8 pieces.

These were then placed in the pot with cold water topping the baskets. Lining the pot with those extra dong leaves is also a good idea. Then cook until the water boils and just keep adding water for about 4 hours. Others claim, as their families cook many cakes, that they cook these for 10-12 hours. This is necessary if you want it to stay alright for several days.

Each one came out proud and had a picture taken holding her own Chung cake.

What you Need to Prepare Chung Cake

What to prepare for making Chung Cake or Bang Chung:

  • High Quality Glutinous Rice soaked in water for 12-14 hours
  • Slices of pork, with bits of fat to make the rice more tasty, seasoned with pepper and salt. Some add onions and sugar.
  • Mung bean paste made from beans soaked for 2 hours
  • Dong leaves cleaned properly
  • Giang bamboo strips which are ideal as these bamboos have long nodes. These are first soaked in salt water or steamed until they are ribbon like for easy wrapping.
  • A square mold but not really necessary.

You can see in this picture, the demonstrator cutting the ends of the Dong leaves to make the square basket.

A Bowl of Glutinous Rice

Glutinous Rice

Glutinous Rice

Soaked Glutinous Rice

This is the bowl of glutinous rice already soaked for 12-14 hours. Glutinous Rice is different from the ordinary rice. It is sticky when cooked and usually prepared in Southeast Asia for special occasions.

Some Fat Please

Seasoned Slices of Pork

Seasoned Slices of Pork

Seasoned Slices of Pork

You can see in the picture the actual size of the sliced pork with bits of fat. Usually, these slices of port are seasoned with salt and pepper.

The Mung Bean Paste

Mung Bean Paste

Mung Bean Paste

Mung Bean Paste

Remember, the mung beans are soaked for about 2 hours, then a paste is made out of these soaked beans. To make the paste, steam or boil mung bean until soft. Add a pinch of salt. This may take about 45 minutes. Mash the cooked beans thoroughly and roll these into balls.

Filling up the Square Basket

Square basket for  Chung Cake

Square basket for Chung Cake

Stuffing the basket

After cutting the narrow ends of the Dong leaves, arrange the leaves on top of the giang strings forming a square base.

Then, start stuffing in the square basket with glutinous rice, mung bean paste, layering these carefully. First, place the glutinous rice in the basket, then, the mung bean paste.

On top of this first layer, place the seasoned slices of pork at the centre. Cover this with another layer of rice and mung bean paste. Make sure the square is full at all sides.

Filling up the Square Basket

Filling up square basket

Filling up square basket

The Filled Square Basket Ready for the Final Wrap

Layering Ingredients in Basket

Layering Ingredients in Basket

Squaring the Chung Cake Basket

Without the square frame, it was a bit of a struggle but with our hands, we managed to wrap the Chung Cake. It was like wrapping a square gift but as this was our first try, the square was not perfect.

Making the Basket Square

Squaring the basket

Squaring the basket

Wrapping the Chung Cake

When wrapping the chung cake, the giang strings that were placed underneath the basket serve as ties. Because they had been soaked or steamed, they are like ribbons and are easy to handle.

It is easier if you have the square frame but it is not that difficult to hold the sides with your palms and tie the bamboo strips tightly. With some help, we managed as you can see in the picture.

These giang bamboo strips are then used to cut the cake. The Vietnamese usually cut Bahn Chung into 8 slices.

Tying the Squared Basket with Giant Strips

Wrapping the Cake

Wrapping the Cake

The Properly Wrapped Chung Cake Squared and Ready for Cooking

Finished cake

Finished cake

Cooking the Chung Cake

Place the prepared chung cake in the pot. You can see our prepared chung cake. They're great for the first try. Carefully arrange them ensuring that they are properly tied as you don't want them to spill over.

Add water filling the pot and start boiling for several hours. Stop boiling when you are sure the inside of the cake is fully cooked. The cake comes out green taking the color of the Dong leaves.

Cooking the Chung Cake Requires Hours of Boiling

Chung Cakes Ready for Boiling

Chung Cakes Ready for Boiling

Families Gather Waiting for the Chung Cake

Vietnamese families prepare for many visiting families and friends so many Chung Cake are cooked and these are boiled for many hours. Some say 10-12 hours. Others say less than that but once the charcoals are formed, Vietnamese immediately roast some sweet potatoes which now have also become part of the traditional TET food.

As the Chung Cake are cooked, families tell stories of previous TET celebrations and it is a bonding experience for families.

Arranging the Chung Cake in the Altar

The altar to worship the ancestors was already prepared and in this are placed, the kumquat tree full of fruits and lucky money, the dried fruits, the Chung cake, pomelo, pickled unripe green mango, and pickled onions. These are the condiments that usually accompany the Chung cake.

Chung Cake Tasting with Its Traditional Condiments

TET Treats

TET Treats

Why is Chung Cake the Center of the TET Offering?

Every child in Vietnam knows this story by heart. It is well documented in The Extraordinary Stories of Linh Nam, a book published in 1695. The story tells us about Lang Lieu, the person to be credited for the chung cake. After a victory over the Shang of China, Hung Vuong, the ruler at that time wanted to choose his successor from among his sons.

To do this, he decided to hold a competition in which each of his sons had to bring a delicacy to offer the ancestors at the TET altar. Whoever brought the most delicious and expressive of the honor due the ancestors would be the next ruler. The princes went off to find the top luxury food they could from the sea and the forest except for Lang Lieu.

Much poorer compared to his other brothers, this 18th prince, Lang Lieu, contented himself with preparing something from the ordinary ingredients of everyday food such as pork and rice. He tried until finally, he prepared a square cake called Banh Chung. Square for the Vietnamese is the form of the Earth.

Then, he created a round one, Banh Day. After tasting the cakes, the ruler was impressed and he considered the cakes the best offering to represent the tremendous respect for their ancestors. Lang Lieu became the ruler and since then, the rice cakes became the traditional offering for TET for the Vietnamese people.

For this year's TET, one of the hotel staff gave us 2 Chung Cakes prepared by his family which we enjoyed as we watched the TET fireworks.

Our Imperfect Cooked Chung Cake

Chung Cake

Chung Cake

Do You Know Something About TET New Year?

We are familiar with Chinese New Year but not really with TET, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. But here in Vietnam, this is the top holiday of the year. For those of you who are interested in Vietnamese culture, get this book and learn a bit of this festival.

Weeks before, preparations are at fever pitch with employees taking a week off to help their families prepare.

Parties start early and will just keep until TET holidays. After that, families go on pilgrimage to the temples to get good luck for the year.

Enjoy Other Vietnamese TET Dishes

Other than Chung Cake, dishes are prepared for the family to enjoy. But Chung Cake is the one offered at the altar, served to families and other well wishers as well.

Vietnamese food really impresses me the more I get to know it. There is so much greens used in every meal. It is much more healthy.

How to Make Chung Cake Video

Here is a video of how to make Chung Cake for those who want to follow how it is actually made. You can give it a try and savour one of the tastiest dishes.

© 2013 Mary Norton

Have You Ever Tried Chung Cake?

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 13, 2018:

It definitely can. The Vietnamese usually cook this for New Year or TET. It can definitely feed two.

Travel Chef from Manila on September 13, 2018:

I will surely love to try this. I've been in Vietnam but wasn't able to try this one. I wonder how much this cost? It seems like it can feed more than two people because the rice itself is a heavy meal already.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2018:

I am sure you will as you're a person who is up for adventure and you love cooking so tasting something new is always a pleasure.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 10, 2018:

O wow...all wrapped up it looks like a pretty package. I have not had any of this but am sure I would enjoy it if I have the opportunity. thank you for the detailed explanation.

Angels once again are headed your way ps

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 10, 2018:

Thank you Jill. It tastes good, too.

Jill Spencer from United States on May 09, 2018:

Wonderful story behind the cake, Mary. It really makes me want to try one.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on May 14, 2016:

I have many friends who will enjoy this recipe. I'll pass this along and share with others. Great instruction and photos. Enjoyed hearing about the festival and thanks for the Chung Cake recipe.

Happy Days,

Audrey

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 06, 2016:

Thank you pstraubie48. Maybe you can come to Vietnam and try making it right there.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 06, 2016:

Wow...that is quite a process....I hope that I have the opportunity to give this a try one day.

An excellent explanation as well as well chosen photos..

Angels are on the way to you today ps

shared

Patsy Bell Hobson from zone 6a, SEMO on February 18, 2015:

This is all new to me and I find it very interesting. Loved the demonstration and photos. ^+

poetryman6969 on February 11, 2015:

Mung bean paste and well done pork? I'm in!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 10, 2015:

I only learnd about Chung cake when we lived in Hanoi. Soon, it is TET again and am sure they're busy preparing some.

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on February 09, 2015:

I mean "were used for packaging." I wonder why I was not able to edit my comment.

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on February 09, 2015:

Wow! Although I have not eaten this Vietnamese cake yet, I can already imagine how it tasted because of the banana leaves that are used for packaging. Very interesting hub and I have learned a bit history of this cake. Thanks for sharing. Well done!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 09, 2015:

what an interesting festival and the chung cake process was quite long, should taste awesome. Looks like our glutinous rice cake

Nell Rose from England on February 08, 2015:

That was fascinating to read, and the photos were great too! I had never heard of chung cake, but along with the recipe I learned some history too, wonderful!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 08, 2015:

I have eaten some Vietnamese food but never even heard of chung cake much-less eaten any of it. Thanks for telling us the history behind it and also how it is made along with the photos that adds so much to this hub. Up votes and sharing!

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on February 08, 2015:

Mary, this is so fascinating to see how Chung Cakes are made. It looks delicious, and I would love to try some.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on February 08, 2015:

This is such a wonderfully constructed piece. It is not just a recipe, it is a lesson in Vietnamese living and history.

Your photos and directions are so clear that I may have to give this a try some day.

Angels are on the way

Voted up++++ Shared and Pinned

KonaGirl from New York on May 25, 2014:

I have tried it in Hawaii (yum), but it was adapted to the Hawaiian culture and made with garlic and Hawaiian chili peppers in the pork mixture, then wrapped in either banana leaf or ti leaf.

What is a dong leaf? I couldn't find any information as to what type of plant it is other than it grows in Vietnam and not yet in Hawaii. It is a dish I like but many Westerners may not find the glutinous rice appetizing. It is an acquired texture and taste. Someday, I would like to travel to Vietnam and have the authentic Chung Cake.

Mary, you have done a wonderful presentation of this Vietnamese TET holiday food! Thank you so much!

Aloha, my friend!

Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on February 03, 2014:

I have never tried Chung Cake, but it has many ingredients I love!

masunyoananda on January 29, 2014:

Wow, this sounds great. Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful lens of yours...:)

Melissa Miotke from Arizona on September 15, 2013:

This sounds really tasty. I loved your bright and vivid pictures.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on February 27, 2013:

The festivals and foods of different cultures are so very fascinating. I thank you once again Aesta for allowing me to view the world through your eyes. It is always a wonderful adventure to visit your articles.

crstnblue on February 14, 2013:

Hmmmm, so, appetizing! Got hungry seeing Chung Cake Tasting photo! : ))

anonymous on February 12, 2013:

I am hungry now!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 12, 2013:

@anonymous: Am happy to have triggered happy memories of Vietnam.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 11, 2013:

@anonymous: I love Vietnamese food even more now that I have learned a bit of how they prepare it.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 11, 2013:

@LouisaDembul: The Chung cake is cooked differently from the Filipino rice cake.

LouisaDembul on February 09, 2013:

I've never had Chung cake, but enjoy the glutinous rice cakes that the Filipinos prepare.

anonymous on February 08, 2013:

I would love to try out the Chung Cake, the name and the picture leaves my mouth salivating and filled with temptation. Vietnamese food looks delicious and the local cuisine must be tasty too.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 08, 2013:

@jamesonsquidoo: I'm sorry I beat you to it. I liked your lens on Sapa, best guide I have read.

anonymous on February 05, 2013:

@aesta1: Yeah. Although there are various kinds of Chung cake including purple one in Sapa, I personally like the orginal flavor one

jamesonsquidoo on February 05, 2013:

Wow, nice lens! I was about to make a lens about Chung Cake since it's almost Tet holiday and stumbled upon your lens! Well done

anonymous on February 05, 2013:

I lived in Vietnam when I was younger, thanx for the memories.

Nnadi bonaventure Chima from Johanesburg on February 04, 2013:

I have not tried it but i cant wait to do that. It looks yummy

GimperBee LM on February 03, 2013:

You make this recipe look like its simple to make. I like your lovely photos too!

Aunt-Mollie on February 03, 2013:

Congratulations on LOTD for this lens. Your photos really add to this article!

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on February 02, 2013:

No, it is new to me. but this beautiful lens tempt me to try this chung cake. great lens.

DebMartin on February 02, 2013:

Beautiful Lens. Really, really well done. I want to try Chung Cake but I think I'll have someone more experienced make it for me. Your recipe has given me the urge to try it though. Thanks and Blessed. d

VspaBotanicals on February 01, 2013:

This lens is so amazing and the photos are breathtaking. Thank you.

norma-holt on February 01, 2013:

This is a beautiful lens and congrats on lotd. You certainly deserved it. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2013. Hugs

markweiland on February 01, 2013:

Chung Cake looks delicious. I learned a bit about Vietnam because of this lens.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@ThanhQuach: Yes, the TET parties have started.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@preciousbeebee: The Chinese have so many different stuffing all so good. I love trying a different one each time.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@rattie lm: Bahn Chung is often made for TET and shared with families as they wish each other blessing for the new year. I love those spring rolls, too.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@bushaex: We don't really want to lose those age old tradition.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@Camden1: I love that one, too, especially the salted eggs.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@athomemomblog: You put a lot more spices in the tamales which I like very much as well.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@Rosetta Slone: You made me think of the dish we used to have at home: tiny fish wrapped in banana leaves.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@SusanDeppner: Bahn Chung is often made only for TET. I am learning so much about Vietnamese culture now that I live in Hanoi. Thanks.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@delia-delia: Chuc Mung Nam Moi is plastered all over the streets now as TET is soon. I was happy to see it here.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@Diana Wenzel: Thanks. I really enjoyed the experience of making Chung cake with several Vietnamese sharing with us what they do in their families.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@sybil watson: I am happy you appreciate it.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@Dressage Husband: Most Vietnamese prepare Bahn Chung only for TET.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@happynutritionist: I had been wishing to get LOTD and it finally came.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@squidoopets: It hint it is a good idea as I often skirt around the pork when eating. I really like the mung bean paste.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@MiaMusement: There are several rice cakes and depending where they come from, the Vietnamese have their special rice cakes. In Hanoi, it is definitely Bahn Chung.

shawn-hobbs-9847 on January 31, 2013:

Chung Cake is new to me, Love the info in the lense and its got me wanting to try this cake! :)

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@anonymous: Thanks for sharing these. I will feature Gac here as that fruit also fascinated me.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@Dennis40: You can use aluminum foil. It will not, however, have that greenish color from the dong leaves.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@KathyMcGraw2: Thank you Kathy. I often write about what is interesting to me.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

@chezchazz: Thanks, am one of those still winging it here in Squidoo. Thank you so much.

Anthony Godinho from Ontario, Canada on January 31, 2013:

Hmmmm, I'm craving for some Chung Cake now. I've never tried it before, but you definitely sold it to me. Very well done lens. Congrats on LOTD. Stay blessed!

KateAdamsUSA on January 31, 2013:

Why this Chung Cake looks incredibly delicious. I tried mung bean cake, not sure how similar that is but will add this on my things to do. Great lens.

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on January 30, 2013:

Great lens. I have learnt something new today, never heard of Tet Chung Cake before. Congratulations for LotD.

Blessed.

Chazz from New York on January 30, 2013:

Congrats on a well deserved LOTD. Chung Cake is new to me but I definitely have to try it. Amazing job on this lens. Blessed and featured on "Still Wing-ing it on Squidoo." Thanks for sharing this.

Kathy McGraw from California on January 30, 2013:

You always have the most interesting articles and this Chung Cake one is no exception :)

lesliesinclair on January 30, 2013:

Lovely lens, full of information and super pics and video.

dewapariana on January 30, 2013:

Congratulations getting LOTD

MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose from Washington State on January 30, 2013:

What a delicious recipe. Thanks for sharing the process with us. Congratulations on your LOTD and a purple star. I love the video and directions. What a wonderful celebration to learn about, Lunar New Year.

anonymous on January 30, 2013:

@Dennis40: NO, you are not the only one.:) I'm Vietnamese too. I used to make Chung Cake few years ago. Now I'm too busy to make it but my grandmother'll make it this TET. Now there are other kinds of Chung Cake. Sticky rice can be replaced to grilled rice or added another ingredient such as Gac that make original light green of Chung Cake to dark green or red one.

May Matthew on January 30, 2013:

It is nice to know more about Vietnamese culture. Vietnamese food is delicious. When I have the chance I will try Chung Cake. Thank you for sharing!

HaviRose on January 30, 2013:

"You learn something new every day." This lens was such an interesting read. Thank you for sharing! Chung cake looks incredibly tasty.

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on January 30, 2013:

Very interesting. Congratulations on LotD!

Spiderlily321 on January 30, 2013:

Congrats on LOTD! What an interesting lens. I've never tried Chung Cake before but would love to some day. Thanks for sharing. Angel blessed

NoodleGirlsie on January 30, 2013:

What a fantastic lens - thank you for sharing this - so interesting!

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on January 30, 2013:

Looks like fun to make with a group. Congratulations on LOTD

anonymous on January 30, 2013:

I've never tried Chung Cake but it looks great. Congratulations on getting LotD!

MiaMusement on January 30, 2013:

It looks like there's a Tet Festival not far from me on Sunday; perhaps I'll go and sample some Chung Cake. If I do, I'll think of you and this excellent lens. (Loved all the pix!) Here's hoping you and yours enjoy security, health, luck and prosperity in the New Year. (It certainly seems to be starting well... BIG CONGRATS on LOTD!)

writerkath on January 30, 2013:

Wow! What an outstanding lens! The photos are superb! Congratulations on your LOTD - and thank you for a wonderful and educational experience as well! :) Hugs and a huge Squid Blessing! :) Kath

HalloweenRecipes on January 30, 2013:

Congrats on LoTD! I haven't had the opportunity to taste some Chung Cake, but would love to try some.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on January 30, 2013:

What a great experience getting to make Chung cake!

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on January 30, 2013:

Wow! What a process! Congratulations on LOTD!

Fox Music on January 30, 2013:

Thanks for sharing this delicious lens "How to Make Chung Cake for TET"

Darcie French from Abbotsford, BC on January 30, 2013:

I would try a vegetarian version of Chung Cake. I loved how you did the lens with the pictures of each step making the dish. Congrats on LOTD - WOOT!

Dennis40 on January 30, 2013:

Am I the only Vietnamese here? :D Anyway I tried to make a similar one this week with aluminum foil and it turn out pretty well

KimGiancaterino on January 30, 2013:

Not yet, but I enjoyed learning about Chung Cake. Congratulations on LOTD!

ismeedee on January 30, 2013:

Never tried it, though I'd like to! I'm sure I'd seen it or something similar when I lived in Hawaii!

mrknowitall54321 on January 30, 2013:

Never tried it, I would love to though!

happynutritionist on January 30, 2013:

I'm so happy to see you and this lens getting LOTD...and what an interesting lens. I didn't know about this special tradition in Viet Nam. I love the way the Chung Cake looks all wrapped. Also enjoyed reading more about your country. Enjoy your LOTD day! *blessed*

CampingmanNW on January 30, 2013:

It's been many years since I have eaten Banh Chung wrapped in Dong leaves. Thank you for the recipe and congratulations on winning LOTD

poldepc lm on January 30, 2013:

congratulations on LOTD

Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on January 30, 2013:

I worked with a Vietnamese gentleman when I was in Saudi Arabia and he made a lot of traditional dishes but I never had Tet Chung Cake. I think it looks good! He liked really, really strong chillies a lot :)

Congratulations on LOTD!

Deadicated LM on January 30, 2013:

Not yet, I'll put it on my "To Do" list. Great Lens, so very well done and illustrated. Kudos and thanks for sharing.

kimmanleyort on January 30, 2013:

Congrats on LOTD and blessings for your beautiful pictures and excellent content!

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on January 30, 2013:

I would love to sample this cake. Perhaps a local Vietnamese restaurant will serve them. Great, informative lens.

khacdiep87 on January 30, 2013:

I ate a lot of Chung cakes , any food,

it was delicious

jlshernandez on January 30, 2013:

This sounds delicious. I will try to make this. Looks yummy. Congrats on LOTD. Blessed*****

Karen Kolavalli from Lexington, Kentucky on January 30, 2013:

Would love to try it. I suspect it's going to be tricky to find it at a restaurant in my area, but maybe when I travel.