The Cold Food Festival in Vietnam

It is unknown when banh troi and banh chay (white sticky rice balls) became a popular food during Han Thuc (Cold Food) Festival which falls on March 3 of the lunar calendar. Some people believe that the custom of making these cakes appeared in the dynasty of Hung kings to commemorate Mother Au Co who gave birth to 100 eggs which hatched 100 sons.

On thefestival day, the Vietnamese people prepare these types of cakes, steamed sticky rice and sweet soup to offer the Buddha and their own ancestors

It is not too difficult to make these cakes, however, it requires a careful selection of materials, such as Nep cai hoa vang – a special variety of sticky rice of high quality and special flavor whichis mixed with rice according to the rate of eight and two.

Although they all are made from rice batter, their stuffing is rather different. The stuffing of banh troi is a piece of dark brown sugar and that of banh chay is steamed green bean paste mixed with sugar and coconut. The banh chay is larger than banh troi and served with a sweet soup made of tapioca, grated ginger root and sugar.

The main ingredients to make banh troi and banh chay consist of glutinous rice flour,
brown sugar, steamed green bean pasteand tapioca.
Banh troi is stuffed with a piece of brown sugar.

Banh chay is stuffed with steamed green bean paste.

Boiling banh troi and banh chay.

Place the sticky rice balls on a large plate.

Banh troi balls are topped with sesame seeds.
Putting banh chay balls on a small bowl and pouring the dressing made from water, sugar and tapioca.
Family members gather to make banh troi and banh chay during the festival.

Offering banh troi – banh chay to ancestors.

Banh troi and banh chay.

Banh troi and banh chay are made with natural colours of gac and sweet potatoes.

Today, these cakes are made colouful with pineapple leaves, gac (Momordica) flesh, and sweet potatoes and different stuffing of pumpkin and red beans.

The Han Thuc Festival takes place on March 3 of the lunar calendar. The name “Han thuc” means “cold food”. It has now become a festival in some provinces in North and Central Vietnam and of Chinese communities in foreign countries.

By Tran Thanh Giang