Glutinous rice balls (bánh trôi - bánh chay) in Cold Food Festival

Published:  15:08 Tuesday - March 07, 2017

Glutinous rice balls (bánh trôi - bánh chay) in Cold Food Festival

Glutinous rice balls is traditional cuisine in Cold Food Festival (March 3 in lunar month). The balls are served in a thick, sweet clear or brown liquid made of water, sugar, and grated ginger root. It is generally warmed before eating and garnished with sesame seeds.

There are 2 type of Glutinous rice balls: banh troi  and  banh chay. Banh troi is in size of a grape and made of rice, with a palm sugar cube inside; banh chay is the size of an egg, with mung beans inside and is served with thick sweet sauce. 

banh troi

The custom of making glutinous rice balls has its roots in China, where it is celebrated from the third to fifth day of the fourth lunar month and is an occasion for the locals to honour a scholar named Zitui who died of fire burns. Tradditionally, fire is a taboo on this day, so locals eat cold food only. 

The Vietnamese, however, celebrate only one day, March 3th in lunar month. In this day, glutinous rice balls are offered to anccestors as a sign of gratitude. Fire is not banned on this day, and in addition to glutinous rice balls, people still have normal meals.  

Making this kind of cake is quite easy. With banh troi, prepare dough with a brown palm sugar cube inside and rolling it into small balls, then drop it into boiling water. Banh troi is ready when it floats to the surface, place it immediately to cold water, otherwise they will stick to each others. Finally, put the balls on a plate and sprinkle with seasame seeds on top. The recipe of making banh chay is similar to banh troi, but inside banh chay is mung beans, and banh chay is served with thick and sweet sauce that grated ginger and coconut fibre are added to the sauce. Though glutinous rice balls versions may vary from region to region, they all share ingredients in common: grean beans, sugar cubes and sticky rice. 

Banh troi

Banh chay

In Cao Bang and Lang Son provinces, local Tay ethnic people make "Coóng phù" cake, which tastes like lean cake. It is served with hot sugarcane sauce flavored with ginger. In the south of Vietnam to celabrate Cold Food Festival, people tend to make banh chay instead of banh troi, but in the north of Vietnam, banh troi is more popular than the other,  it is the clearest difference between two regions on this day. 

Nowadays, Vietnamese people eat glutinous rice balls not only on special occasion like Cold Food Festival, but also a daily snack. In the official day, many families do not have time to prepare the traditional glutinous balls, they buy it from local eateries. Although they can not make it by themshelves, their respectfulness to ancestor is never lost. 

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