Bánh Tét (Vietnamese Lunar New Year Cake)

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới 🧧🙇‍♀️

Celebrating my Vietnamese heritage with some bánh tét. Love Pho has it on their menu today as a special for $3, it’s limited in supply so come quickly if you want to try it! I describe it like a giant Vietnamese tamal and it’s served here pan fried with pickled vegetables.

Bánh tét is a South Vietnamese specialty, a sticky rice cake that can be either savory or sweet. It is made from glutinous rice stuffed with a mung bean or pork filling and wrapped in a banana leaf. The whole concoction is then boiled or steamed, the banana leaf is removed, and the log-shaped cake is sliced into cylindrical pieces.

Banana leaves are used because they impart a unique aroma and flavor to the rice, reminiscent of tea. The cake will often be wrapped in plastic with a red or gold ribbon tied around it in order to make bánh tét look more festive, because it is traditionally prepared and served for the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration.

It is recommended to serve this rice cake with a cup of hot tea.

While the process of making it has stayed the same throughout history, it eventually became cylindrical in central and south Vietnam. People came up with a variety of fillings and changed its name to bánh tét, where “tét” means “sliced” or “cut” — no knife is needed to slice the cake; one can just use the strings that it comes tied with.

Cultural anthropologist Nir Avieli observed that the rice-heavy wrap is emblematic of Vietnam’s rice growing culture: the way the rice fields in the countryside encircle the livestock and legume patches that are tended to close to home. The leaf wrapping imparts its colour onto the glutinous rice, a green reminiscent of rice fields. As people display the cake on altars and eat it during Tết, a time of hope and rebirth of nature, they remember their ancestors and express gratitude to Mother Nature and her bounty.

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