Tết (Lunar New Year) is coming up and my kids look forward to eating bánh tét every year. Bánh Tét, which is mostly eaten in central and southern Vietnam, is a cylindrical sticky rice cake filled with mung bean, pork belly and wrapped in banana leaves. I grew up eating this my whole life, but only tried making them recently thanks to RunAwayRice’s recipe (link here). This is a recipe that seems daunting, but watch her tutorial videos – she breaks down the steps and organizes the recipe so it’s very easy to make at home.
Bánh Tét origin folk story:
As an elderly king approached his death, he summoned his three sons to his deathbed. It was time to choose a successor to the throne. The king told his three boys that whoever could provide the most delicious meal for him would be king. The sons immediately went to their wives to plan this grand feast for their father.
The eldest son spared no expense and hired the most celebrated chefs in the land.
The middle son had his wife prepare a personalized meal complete with the kings favorite flavors.
The youngest son presented a simple meal to the king—a plate of bánh tét.
The king became angry seeing this simple meal in light of the other grandiose plates his other boys had prepared for him. He demanded an explanation.
The youngest prince and his wife begged for the kings forgiveness; explaining that bánh tét was all they could afford. An explanation soon followed by the princess to calm the kings anger.
“Instead of presenting you with a tasty but meaningless meal sir, I decided to fill your plate with meaning—a dish that best symbolizes the beauty of our land, Vietnam.”
The king was perplexed, but listened acutely as the princess continued
“The rice represents the staple of all Vietnamese meals—these simple grains give our people energy to work. The green wrapper represents the beauty of our famed rice paddies that populate our countryside. The mung bean symbolizes the sun that gives us life. And finally, the pork belly is symbolic of the great people in the three regions of your kingdom. All of this tied together by string—symbolizing the king who holds this promised land together.”
The king was speechless, deeply impressed by the princess’ thoughtful interpretation. He thought about her story as he ate the bánh tét. As he made his final decision, it was the youngest prince who would make the throne.
“A kingdoms power isn’t measured in gold and treasure, but the prosperity of it’s people. Thank you for showing me this princess.”
And the rest is history
My favorite way to eat bánh tét, sliced then pan fried until they are crispy