Banh Day Recipe Vietnamese Sticky Rice Cake

banh day

Banh day (pronounced yầy) is a very simple and traditional rice cake with a great story. Vietnamese legend has it that the wise King Hung Vuong the VI had a competition to decide which one of his 22 sons was going to succeed him on the throne. The competition was to find the most tasty dish in the country and serve it to the King during the last day of the lunar month. The person with the tastiest dish would inherit the throne (Top Chef eat your heart out). So each prince went off and scoured the land and seas in search of rare delicacies to make that perfect dish. The exception was one prince name Lang Lieu (Tiet Lieu). Though he was a prince by title, he was humble and lived a modest life as his mother was not the queen (in those days the king had many children with concubines). He stayed in the Vietnam to search for his inspiration. However, as the day of judgment neared, he still did not have a dish. But one day he fell asleep and in his dreams a deity appeared to him and rewarded him for his humbleness and modest life and gave him directions for two different rice dishes:

“make two different rice cakes, one square cake to symbolize the earth and in it, put mung beans and pork to symbolize the plants and animals. Finally wrap it in banana leaves and call it banh chung. With the same rice make a round rice cake to symbolize the heavens and make it white and pure and call it banh day.”

So on the last day of the lunar month, the day before the first day of spring, all the princes showed King Hung Vuong VI their dishes. Many were lavish, exotic, and delicious. But the simplest and one that intrigued the King the most was Lang Lieu’s banh day and banh chung. The king asked him to explain these dishes and Lang Lieu said,

“Rice is the most precious food item in the land and yet also the most abundant. I have created dishes that symbolize the harmony between the earth and heaven so that all of our people can enjoy.”

Realizing the humbleness and wisdom of Lang Lieu, King Hung Vuong VI, declared him the winner and successor to the throne of Vietnam. The recipes were passed to the people of Vietnam to enjoy and to this day, banh chung and banh day are served during Tet, the lunar new year by almost everyone in the country. If you heard a different version of this story…well, as legends go–it changes every time it’s told :)

Even though we’re 6 months ahead of the lunar new year in February 14, 2010, these dishes, especially banh day are often eaten year round. Sandwich a piece of fried cha lua (Vietnamese ham) and it becomes a Vietnamese “hamburger” that’s surprisingly tasty and brings back great memories eating this growing up. Cha lua can be found in most Asian groceries either wrapped in aluminum foil or banana leaf.

banh day

Banh Day (Vietnamese Rice Cakes)
Printable Recipe

  • 16 oz package of glutinous rice flour (makes about 12-14 cakes)
  • 1 3/4 cups cold water
  • 1/2 ts salt
  • cooking oil
  • banana leaves cut into circles about 3-4 inch diameter (or use aluminum foil)
  • steamer
  • cha lua (Vietnamese ham)

Add salt and rice flour to mixing bowl and mix. Slowly incorporate the water into the dough and work it into a ball. Keep on working it and be patient, it will come together! The dough should be like play dough in texture.

Brush a light layer of oil on top side of the banana leaves or aluminum foil.

Pinch off a small piece of dough and roll into a small ball slightly smaller then the size of a golf ball and place on banana leaf. Gently flatten just a bit, but not too much as it will flatten further when cooked.

Place in steamer tray with plenty of space between as these will expand. With a boiling steamer, steam for about 8 minutes until completely opaque. Over steaming will cause it to flatten. Remove and allow to cool about 10 minutes or so and serve with slice of cha lua.

To store, brush on another thin layer of oil on top of one rice cake and then flip another rice cake on top so that the banana leaves are on both ends. Wrap with saran wrap. This stores in the fridge for about a week. Reheat in the microwave for about 45 secs.

banh day
For less doughy taste, use a single rice cake and wrap that around the cha lua 

Stick a piece of cha lua (Vietnamese ham) inside and it’s simple but yet tasty and even addicting snack. Some even dip this in fish sauce. The soft and sticky glutinous rice cake celebrates the simplicity and importance of rice in Vietnamese culture and is a treat fit for both Kings and commoners. 

 

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41 Responses to “Banh Day Recipe Vietnamese Sticky Rice Cake”

  1. 1

    KennyT — October 15, 2009 @ 6:19 am

    This is simply amazing!! Would love to try this Vietnamese rice cake one day!

  2. 2

    Anh — October 15, 2009 @ 10:32 am

    This is one of my fav childhood dish. I ate it a lot. Mom just bought it from the market for me. My grandmom made it sometimes using the traditional way but it was a loy of work. I will try yours!! Thanks!

  3. 3

    Ravenous Couple — October 15, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

    kennyT: Banh day's amazingness is in it's simplicity!

    Anh: Banh day was a great snack after school or for lunch growing up.

  4. 4

    Mai — October 15, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

    I love your post with the story or history of the dish. I especially like the one about trau cau.

  5. 5

    Ravenous Couple — October 15, 2009 @ 5:41 pm

    Mai: Thanks! Through food you can learn a lot about the culture :)

  6. 6

    natalie — October 15, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

    this is one of my favorite snacks! my mom and grandma used to make it all the time when i was little, except with only one of the rice cakes- which i seem to like a lot better! not so doughy and you can enjoy the cha lua better!

  7. 7

    Ravenous Couple — October 15, 2009 @ 5:46 pm

    natalie: you're right! you can use one rice cake. Since it's so pliable, I liked to wrap the single rice cake around the cha lua.

  8. 8

    Fresh Local and Best — October 15, 2009 @ 7:38 pm

    What a thoughtful and informative post! I love the rich historical context you've added. I like any recipe that features cha lua, especially with banana leaves. You guys are incredibly talented, and I have much admiration.

    Best,

    Christine

  9. 9

    Ravenous Couple — October 15, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

    christine: thank you so much!

  10. 10

    Gastronomer — October 15, 2009 @ 8:04 pm

    Oh lord, I love banh day! Sometimes I eat it too quickly and choke on the sticky dough. Good times.

  11. 11

    H. C. — October 15, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

    Simple and lovely, and it's been a looong time since I've had these (yes, too long)

  12. 12

    Ravenous Couple — October 15, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

    Gastronomer: you're hilarious! probably too plain for bake sale huh?

    H.C.: thanks for stopping by!

  13. 13

    maybelle's mom — October 15, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

    lovely blog (and thanks for visiting.) I have never had this and I can't quite imagine the flavor but from your picts it sure looks appealing.

  14. 14

    Jackie at Phamfatale.com — October 16, 2009 @ 12:09 am

    Looks tasty! I've learned a lot today. Thanks for the lovely post. I've never tasted it before. At first, I thought it was banh bao with betel leaves =)

  15. 15

    yutjangsah — October 16, 2009 @ 12:09 am

    What a great story. When I have to come up with a winning recipe, I'll have to remember to sleep and dream one up. Now, I want a vietnamese "hamburger". Yum.

  16. 16

    bluang3lbby — October 16, 2009 @ 4:04 am

    my mom just made some of these the other day. since we arent so close to a asian grocery store that has banana leaves, we use heavy duty aluminum foil oiled. so good though. i wish my mom could make some banh cuon though.

  17. 17

    Hang — October 16, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

    I adored these growing up. It was one of my favorite snacks at New Years and when we went to the China town in Canada. They don't have them at the asian market here and I never got around to finding a recipe. I know what I am having for dinner. (Yes…I said dinner. Once I get a craving….) Mac and chz out of a box for the family if they don't want any :)
    Thanks so very much!!!!

  18. 18

    Ravenous Couple — October 16, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

    maybelle's mom: thank you! some might say it's bland from the ingredients…but it's surprising good if you like rice and the texture is sticky and chewy :)

    jackie: wow, we're surpised you never had this..try it sometimes!

    jutjangsuh: let us know what your dream comes up with :)

    bluag3lbby: using aluminum foil works just fine as well.

    Hang: try it and let us know how it goes! Nothing stops a women and her food cravings.. :) Thanks for visiting and hope you comment often.

  19. 19

    Hang — October 16, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

    So very Yummy!!! And so easy.I had been baking all day for a bake sale, digging up my garden, and bringing in the plants (possible frost this weekend) so the last thing I wanted to do was spend alot of time on dinner. This was perfect. My daughter surprising remembered them from when she was little and was absolutely thrilled. The other 2 enjoyed their mac & chz. I am unfortunately cursed with 3 very picky eaters who rarely all like the same thing :(
    A big thanks from me and my daughter :)

  20. 20

    Ninette — October 17, 2009 @ 1:52 am

    Oh, these look good, and I have all the ingredients. Thank you for sharing the sweet story.

  21. 21

    Miakoda — October 17, 2009 @ 2:25 am

    God, I love foods with history behind them! This looks really good :)

  22. 22

    5 Star Foodie — October 17, 2009 @ 4:33 am

    How wonderful to learn about this specialty, it sounds amazing! I would love to try!

  23. 23

    The Little Teochew — October 17, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

    NICE! Love the pics, the recipe and the story :)

  24. 24

    pigpigscorner — October 19, 2009 @ 9:45 am

    wow very informative. I've never heard of this before, sounds really tasty.

  25. 25

    Ravenous Couple — October 19, 2009 @ 3:12 pm

    Hang: Thank you for sharing that great story! We're so glad you and your daughter enjoyed the banh day.

    Ninette: Thank you!

    Miakoda: The story of banh day and banh chung is told to every child in Vietnam and goes to show how important food is to our culture :)

    5 star foodie, Little Teochow, pigspigscorner: big thank you to all of you!

    Little Teochow:

  26. 26

    Leela — October 21, 2009 @ 3:05 am

    This one is a bookmarker! Thanks for the recipe. Looks incredible.

  27. 27

    Ravenous Couple — October 21, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

    Leela: Thank you!

  28. 28

    Anonymous — October 28, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

    Wow…it's been such a while since I last had these! These "rice cake" represents a true Vietnamese culture/ culinary, I think.

    BUT, I don't like them PERIOD!!! I do, however, enjoy the sweet and earthy fragrant from the "rice cake" but other than that, I often told my mother, who absolutely LOVES these, that eating "banh day is like eating a big chunk of tasteless, favorless, senseless rice dough…"!

    I'm just glad you make these at home!

  29. 29

    LaLa — November 12, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

    What if you don't have a steamer? Are there other alternatives?

  30. 30

    Ravenous Couple — November 12, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

    LaLa: Yes, you can buy these metal platforms at your Asian market that you place inside of pots to create a steamer. They have all types of sizes and are only a few dollars each.

  31. 31

    Anonymous — April 28, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    I am a foreigner currently living in Vietnam and i tasted some Vietnamese food.Some are yummy and i want to try to cook it at home.My probs is i dont know how its called, so i bought some samples to work and my collegues helped me with its name.I searched the recipe online and I found your site.Thank you for sharing the recipe and some anecdote that goes with it.Im delighted to know the information.Now, I have something to share to my kids in the future and to my folks when i get home.MADAM Binyam

  32. 32

    kuriouskitteh — June 22, 2010 @ 12:28 am

    I really love learning about the history behind food, thank you so much for sharing!
    Your banh day look so simple and pure.

    ~Kurious Kitteh

  33. 33

    Geeta — September 30, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

    This is absolutely awesome recipe. Also this is new recipe for me. Thank u.

  34. 34

    dining table — March 1, 2011 @ 1:50 am

    Wow! This is really something so cool! I am starting to love it with all the photos. I can't wait to try this one.

  35. 35

    Angela — July 9, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

    I was sitting and pondering about what this was because it looked so familiar but I couldn’t get what it was! I asked my mother and she also sat and pondered then she said, “AH! This is the thing we eat but we make it with bean curd inside as a dessert! This is something the Northern Vietnamese eat.”
    It made so much sense after that haha!

  36. 36

    Anh — September 26, 2011 @ 12:15 am

    Love all your recipes! Can I use a hand mixer for this recipe or do I need a Kitchen Aid standing mixer to mix the dough? Thanks!

    • The Ravenous Couple replied: — September 26th, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

      you could use a mixer, but there’s no need! (pun intended)

  37. 37

    Quora — August 21, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

    What are some major cultures that serve traditional food on a leaf?…

    Vietnam, like many other countries in Asia, has lots of food that served with/on leaf. Here’s the Betel Leaf Wrapped Beef- (bò lá lốt) People seasoned the beef, wrapped with betel leaves then grilled it. You could eat the whole thing. Very delish! Pyr…

  38. 38

    Undas – movingmediations @ buchenwald | Finding Home / Suchen Heimat — November 5, 2012 @ 1:01 am

    [...] tea from China, Nepalese sandalwood incense, 3x to honor the gods in Chinese tradition and handmade Banh Day, a round sticky rice cake symbolizing the heavens, with meatballs of ground pork, nuoc mam fish [...]

  39. 39

    Chúc Mừng Năm Mới | Wandering Third Instar — February 10, 2013 @ 9:24 am

    [...] shallots and daikon. Bánh chưng is one of the  most traditional Tết dishes–the other being bánh dầy. The creation of both dishes is rooted in Vietnamese mythology, when the legendary king, Hùng [...]

  40. 40

    Viet Tofu Chamblee | Spatialdrift — June 8, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

    [...] our stove with a match and steam the chicken steamed bun ($1.89), pork steamed bun ($1.99), and sticky rice flour pork cake [...]

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