Bahn Chung makes for a square meal — literally!

Creativity, simplicity, and the heart of Vietnam lie in this simple square-shaped rice cake dish.

A rice cake dish stuffed with green peas and pork, shaped in a square and wrapped in banana leaves, Banh Chung is a Vietnamese dish integral to Lunar New Year celebrations. The story1 behind how this came to be is one that all Vietnamese know, including the children.

It is said the 6th Hung Dynasty Emperor gave all his sons a task to decide his successor to the throne. He asked them to bring him the most delicious dish that would be offered to the ancestors on the Lunar New Year.

All his sons then travelled far and wide to find the most exotic dish — save the 18th son, Lang Lieu. He was the poorest of them all and could not afford to travel. Instead, he focused on the local ingredients that were available to him: glutinous rice (a staple of the ancient Viets), bean paste, and ground meat.

He made rice cakes from these and moulded them into squares to represent the Earth. He also made Banh Day — round rice cakes to represent the sky.

On the day of the competition, the Emperor’s sons presented him with a great variety of high quality and expensive products. But the Emperor was more impressed with Lang Lieu’s humble rice cakes, finding it both delicious and an authentic representation of respect for the ancestors. Lang Lieu was thus crowned the successor.

Traditionally, families are brought together in the making and eating of this dish come Lunar New Years. And even today, though fewer families prepare the dish by hand, Banh Chung is still a must-have dish as it’s seen as a symbol of loyalty and gratitude to their ancestors.

You do not need fancy ingredients to make an authentic dish, and this applies to all facets of life including investments. Use what is existing to create your unique investment portfolio.

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