Banh Troi, Banh Chay in the Third Lunar Month’s Third Day’s Festival

Published:  15:49 Friday - March 23, 2012

The Cold Food Festival in Vietnam on the third day of the third lunar month is prepared with all bustles of Vietnamese people. One or two weeks before this festival, the people everywhere make banh troi (floating cake), banh chay (lean cake) for offerings to their family ancestors.

The origin of Cold Food Festival

In 654 BC of Xuan Thu period, Tan country – a vassal of Chu family was in disorder. The King of Tan country, Trung Nhi had to run asylum. Accompanying him were some of his servants and slaves including Gioi Tu Khoi. All of them had to flee through countries to countries during 19 years, firstly in Dich country, then Ve country, after that Te country and next So country.

One day, they were short of food on the road and very hungry and thirsty but could not find food anywhere. Gioi Tu Khoi stealthily cut one part of his thigh and cooked for the King. The King after eating asked about the food and knew the fact, he felt deeply appreciated.

Gioi Tu Khoi followed Trung Nhi during 19 years, suffering a lot of difficulties and hardships in danger. After that, Trung Nhi took back his throne and rewarded a lot for those who deserved well in disorder period but forgot the merits of Gioi Tu Khoi. About Gioi Tu Khoi, he did not resent as he thought he had not done anything special and following to help the King was his obligation. Therefore he came back his hometown to take his mother to Mien Son Mountain to live. The King later remembered and tried to find him.

Gioi Tu Khoi did not want to leave Mien Son for being awarded. The King commanded to burn the forest with an aim to urge him to leave, but he insisted to refuse the orders and in the end, both his mother and he were burned to death, on lunar March 05.

The King took pity on him and set an altar on the mountain to worship, at the same time changed the mountain’s name into Gioi Son. The King commanded all the people to refrain from firing during three days (from lunar March 3 to 5) and only ate cold food to commemorate Gioi Tu Khoi.  This custom was handed down till later on. And the Chinese people organized Cold Food Festival on lunar March 03 since then.

banh troi

Cold Food Festival in Vietnam

In Ly dynasty, the Cold Food Festival was disguised. The Vietnamese held the Cold Food Festival with the goal to worship Buddha and ancestors. Vietnamese people do not keep off fire and they cook food as normal.

banh chay

Vietnamese symbolized the Cold Food Festival by banh troi (floating cake) and banh chay (lean cake) with the meanings itself. Currently this festival has been held in the north, especially provinces surrounding Hanoi.

Banh Troi, Banh Chay

Banh troi and banh chay were often considered to have origin from China, but according to legend, banh troi and banh chay could came from Hung King period. The custom to make banh troi and banh chay is to remind the legend “hundred eggs” of Au Co mother.

Banh troi are small white balls made of brown sugar, wrapped in glutinous rice flour. The name floating cakes came about from the way it is actually cooked. After kneading the paste, throw them into water and wait until they are floated. Banh chay are also made of glutinous flour, however, they resemble boiled dumplings and are filled with mung bean paste, sprinkled with sesame seeds and served in bowls with syrups floured with grapefruit blossom. These two cakes are made from glutinous rice flour but have two different tastes.

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