Unique versions of Vietnamese “Bánh Chưng” (Chung cake)

“Bánh Chưng” (Chung cake) is one of the indispensable dishes of Vietnamese people on Tet holiday. For Vietnamese, making Chung cake is a way to express gratitude to their ancestors and homeland. Apart from traditional Chung cake, people make unique versions such as Bánh Chưng gấc” (Momordica Cochinchinensis Chung cake) or “Bánh Chưng gạo lứt” (brown rice Chung cake).


Chung cake was invented by the 18th Prince of Hung Emperor in the contest of looking for the new Emperor. According to the legend, 3,000-4,000 years ago, Prince Lang Lieu, made round and square cakes, the round Day cake symbolizing the sky and the square Chung cake symbolizing the Earth (under the ancient Vietnamese perception), to be offered on the occasion of Spring.

“Bánh Chưng gấc” (Momordica cochinchinensis Chung cake)

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Photo: Huyen Le/ via Zing News

This is a unique variant of Bánh Chưng that you can choose to change the taste as well as the form of the cake for this Tet festival. Like traditional Bánh Chưng, Bánh Chưng gấc is also made from glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork. However, one ingredient that makes the cake red is Momordica Cochinchinensis’s flesh which is mixed with glutinous rice before wrapping, according to Zing News.

The sweetness of Momordica Cochinchinensis, the softness of mung beans and the fatty aroma of pork will certainly make you want to try for more.

“Bánh Chưng gấc” with red color also symbolizes the prosperity and luckiness.

“Bánh Chưng đen” (Black Chung Cake)

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Making “Bánh Chưng đen” requires meticulous skills. Photo: Hang Nguyen/ via Zing News.

“Bánh Chưng đen” is a specialty of the Tay ethnic group in Bac Son District of the Northern province Lang Son on Lunar New Year. The cake is wrapped into the cylinder shape like “Bánh Tét” of the Southern region or “Bánh Gù” of the Giay ethnic minority. Its black color is created by the ash of “núc nác” tree (scientific known as Oroxylum Indicum).

All the ingredients to make “Bánh Chưng đen” from glutinous rice, Oroxylum Indicum to pork and mung beans feature the “soul” of the upland area. “Bánh Chưng đen” is used for worshipping ancestors or treating guests on Tet holiday.

“Bánh Chưng gạo lứt” (brown rice Chung cake)

Unique versions of Vietnamese “Bánh Chưng” (Chung cake)
Photo: Le Trang Anh/ via Zing News
Unique versions of Vietnamese “Bánh Chưng” (Chung cake)
Photo: Le Trang Anh/ via Zing News

In spite of making debut in the market a few years ago, it is not until this Tet holiday that “Bánh Chưng gạo lứt” becomes popular. The sellers claim that the only contains only 1,000-2,100 kcal whereas the traditional Chung cake contains up to 3000 kcal. That is a reason why it is preferred by many clean eaters.

Each cake weighing about 1 kg is priced at VND 90000-VND 110000 (US$ 3.91- US$ 4.78), equivalent to the price of traditional Chung cake.

“Bánh chưng ngũ sắc” (Five-color Chung cake)

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Photo: Nguyen Chung/ via Zing News.

Like traditional Chung cake, the ingredients of five-color Chung cake also include glutinous rice, pork, mung beans, and dong leaves. However, instead of preserving the white original color, glutinous rice is dyed in natural colors namely red of “Gấc” (Momordica Cochinchinensis), yellow of fresh turmeric, purple of “nếp cẩm” (violet glutinous rice), and green of ground galangal leaves

Not only owing eye-catching appearance, but five-color Chung cake also has 5 different flavors which can leave a strong impression on even fastidious eaters.

Due to requiring a sophisticated making process, the price of five-color Chung cake is higher than traditional Chung cake.