HANOI, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Nations around the world celebrate the Lunar New Year with special events and by offering traditional dishes, and Vietnam is no exception.
In Vietnam, making glutinous rice cakes, or the traditional Chung cakes as called by the Vietnamese people, is an indispensable preparation for the Lunar New Year festival. Thus, the observance of the special holiday would not be complete without the Chung cakes.
According to the legend, the Chung cake was first made by Prince Lang Lieu, a son of Hung King, who was said to rule Vietnam some 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.
The Prince made Chung cakes in square shape and Day cakes in round shape to symbolize the Earth and the Sky respectively, and offered them to the King to express his respect and gratitude for his parents, and also to thank the Gods for blessing them with a bumper harvest during the year.
The tradition has been preserved by the Vietnamese people throughout the ages but different regions in the country make their cakes in different shapes.
For example, the Vietnamese in the north have square Chung cakes while those in the south or the ethnic people in mountainous areas have round cakes usually wrapped with leaves.
"I make Chung cakes for my family used during Tet holidays and to give as gifts to my close friends. They are special Tet gifts, actually," Nguyen Van Ky, a 67-year-old man told Xinhua recently.
Ky said he has three children, and each will have a couple of cakes which they will offer for their ancestors by putting them on the altar during New Year.
According to Ky, making Chung cake requires simple materials and ingredients which can be found in every market in Vietnam. The ingredients are usually glutinous rice, mung bean, fatty pork spiced with salt, onion, fish sauce and pepper, which are all wrapped in phrynium leaves before being boiled for at least 10 hours.
Preparation to make a quality cake is time-consuming but rewarding. First, the glutinous rice and mung bean must be soaked in water for a couple of hours to make them soft, while pork must be well-marinated with pepper, onion and salt to make it tasty.
Because of modern lifestyle especially in big cities as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the art of making Chung cake is fast disappearing. City residents now prefer to just buy Chung cakes at any market for their Tet meals.
However, many people, like Ky and his family, have kept the tradition of making Chung cakes alive. They said that they want the young generation of Vietnamese to be proud of their country's history and traditions and feel the real essence of the traditional Vietnamese Tet festival.