The Legend of Chung Cake – The Vietnam’s Tet Holiday Cake

by Huyen Nguyen
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The Legend of Chung Cake 

The story happened many long time ago, when the country was under the rule of the sixth Hung King. The King was getting older and older, so he decided to choose one of his 22 sons to succeed the throne. The king decided to hold a contest. He ordered his sons to line up and said: “The time has come to pass my throne to one of you. Now go and seek a unique food to sacrifice to your ancestors. The one whose sacrifice pleases me the most will be my heir.”

The princes traveled far and wide in search of rare delicacies. They crossed seas and climbed mountains. Prince Lieu was the eighteenth son. Since his mother had died when he was young, he had a lonely childhood. While the other princes scoured the land for rare foods, Prince Lieu lay at home. He knew nothing about fine food. Just three days before the contest’s ending, Prince Lieu had nothing to offer. He lay awake thinking of the different feasts he had attended. Finally, he fell asleep and dreamt that he and his half-brothers were competing to make the finest cake. A goddess appeared in his dream and said: “Nothing can be as big as the heaven and the earth, or as precious as rice. More doesn’t work, two is enough. Sort out the glutinous rice and find some green beans.”

Prince Lieu saw the goddess take some broad green leaves. She wrapped them around her cake and explained: “This cake represents the earth. Because it has green fields, trees and mountains, the color should be green and the shape square. The cake is filled with beans and fatty pork as symbols of the plants and animals… Cook the glutinous rice and pound it to make a cake that represents heaven: white and round like the firmament…”

Upon waking, Prince Lieu set about making the two cakes he had seen in his dream. On the day of the contest huge crowds gathered. People were eager to watch the contest and see the coronation of a new king. As the sun rose, the old king was carried on a palanquin to his ancestral altar. Gongs and drums boomed.

Prince Lieu’s brothers presented many strange delicacies, including pheasant rolls, phoenix terrines, bear arms and pangolin livers… Beside these rarities Prince Lieu placed his rustic offering. Upon first seeing his cake, the onlookers scoffed. But after tasting it, they were amazed. “This is an extraordinary product made with ordinary

materials, said the Chamberlain. The old king asked Prince Lieu for the recipe. The young prince described his method and reported his strange dream.

At midday, the elderly Hung king declared the winner. Prince Lieu would ascend the throne. The king showed his subjects the prince’s two cakes. “As well as tasting good, these cakes remind us that the love of a child for their parents is like the love of heaven and earth and our love for our country. They are easy to make using the gifts of the gods. Their inventor was a genius to create such a meaningful offering.”

Until now, each Lunar New Year, Vietnamese people prepare chưng (square) cakes and giấy (round) buns to sacrifice to their ancestors. After his coronation, Prince Lieu was honored with the title Tiết Liêu Vương, or the seventh Hung King.

Discover the secret of Chung Cake & Tet Holiday with us 

Discover the secret of sticky rice cakes 

Wanna experience the authentic atmosphere of Tet Holiday and learn how to make the Chung Cake by yourself? Let’s join with us in this trip to unwrap the secret of sticky rice cake. 

If you want to experience Tet traditional atmosphere, let’s join with us. You will meet with a young chef – who is the daughter of one of the most prominent chefs of Hanoi, at Hang Be Market. Then, stroll around the market to buy ingredients before heading to her house/restaurant in the old quarter for a hands-on experience making Banh Chung. While waiting for the Banh Chung to be well-cooked, learn how to make another specialty of Hanoi, Banh Goi. This crispy pillow dumpling can be found in many street food stalls around town. Banh Goi is not baked but deep fried to create a charming yellow pastry skin, crispy and fragrant. Later, enjoy the rich pork, mung beans, and aromas from the leaves of the Banh Chung along with the sweet salty Banh Goi served with some fresh herbs and fish sauce for dipping.


Availability: Morning (preferable), Afternoon

Suggested time: 09:00, 15:00
Duration: 4 hours

Take about Vietnamese Tet Holiday with Cultural Experts 

This talk is a unique opportunity to learn about the long-standing Vietnamese culture on Tet festival from a qualified expert, Historical Professor Le Van Lan. You will participate in a one-hour discussion about Vietnamese history and varied aspects of Vietnamese culture. Tourists now will also learn about the change about ways of life and traditional culture of Vietnamese people and evolution of the many Vietnamese ethnic groups’ ways of life and religious practises on Vietnam’s Tet festival. Held either at vintage coffee or at a hotel.


Availability: Morning, Afternoon
Suggested time: 10:30, 14:30
Duration: 1 hour

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