Giầy cake is a simple and traditional glutinous rice cake that carries and very great folklore.
Legend has it that the King Hung the VI held a competition to choose the heir to his throne from the 22 of his sons. He said that each of the princes, on the last day of Lunar New Year, must bring a dish that they find the tastiest and the person with the tastiest dish above all others will inherit the throne. The princes immediately went their ways to scour the land and the sea for luxurious and exotic dishes. Only Lang Lieu (Tiet Lieu), who lost his mom from a very young age, and lived a very humble life ever since, stayed in his hometown to search for a dish. The final day of the year was approaching and he still hasn’t found anything, lost in his thoughts, he fell asleep, and a deity appeared in his dream and gave him directions as a reward to his humble lifestyle:
“There is nothing as valuable as rice, because rice nourishes people. Use glutinous rice to make two types of cake. One square shaped to symbolise the Earth, put mung beans and pork in the fillings to represent plants and animals, called the chưng cake. Use the same rice to make one round shaped cake to symbolise the heavens, pound the rice to make it white and pure, called the giầy cake.”
Lang Lieu’s cakes were judged to be the most delicious by King Hung. After listening to the beautiful meaning of the cakes, the King felt even more touched. Realising the humbleness and wisdom of Lang Lieu, King Hung declared him the successor of the throne. From then, the chưng cake and giầy cake became traditional foods of Vietnam during Lunar New Year.
Nowadays, these two types of savoury cakes are eaten not only during Tet holiday (Lunar New Year) but are also used as an everyday dish, especially the giầy cake. Back when I was home in Vietnam, my mom used to buy me a pair of giầy cake to eat with Vietnamese pork paste for breakfast. Traditionally, giầy cake is made by pounding cooked glutinous rice until it becomes a smooth and elastic dough, and then the dough is shaped into smaller round cakes. This process takes a really long time and hot glutinous rice is really sticky, so it was often done by strong men in the village and was made only during Tet holiday.
We have glutinous rice flour now, so making giầy cake at home becomes much easier. I suddenly crave for this dish the other day, so I took out some glutinous rice flour and start kneading, only half an hour later I was rewarded with a fresh batch of cake. The chewy cakes coupled with a piece of Vietnamese pork ham, I sprinkled some salt and pepper on top, took a bite, and that was pure happiness
Công thức tiếng Việt: Bánh giầy
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of the steamer)
Yields: 6-8 pairs of cake
- 200g glutinous rice flour
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 pinch of salt
- Room temperature water
- Banana leaves/parchment paper
1. Cut the banana leaves or parchment paper into 12 circles. Put the flour in the mixing bowl, slowly add the water and knead until it forms a smooth ball and doesn’t stick to your fingers. I didn’t put a fixed amount of water because every brand of flour will have different absorption level, just add the water slowly and adjust.
2. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Roll each part into a smooth ball. Rub a bit of oil onto the circle banana leaf and place the dough on top. Use the palm of your hand to lightly flatten the dough.
3. Arrange the cakes into the steamer, leave a bit of space between them so they won’t stick to each other. Cover the steamer with a kitchen towel before putting the lid on so water won’t drop into the cakes. Steam for 6-8 minutes until the cakes become completely opaque.
1. When the cakes are done steaming, take them out and rub a bit of oil on top and cover with a piece of banana leaf to prevent them from drying out. You can stack the cakes on top of each other, with banana leaves between them to use less leaves. I highly recommend using banana leaves if you can, since they give the cakes a really nice fragrance.
2. The cakes will flatten further a bit while steaming so don’t flatten the dough out too much, make it a bit thicker than you would like the end result to be.
3. Some recipes call for milk instead of water. I’ve tried both ways and found that while it doesn’t affect the colour of the cakes, the taste of the cakes using milk is a bit richer and there is less smell of flour. This may be due to the fact that dried flour is usually not as good as fresh flour, so using milk will help add some flavour into the cakes.
4. Giầy cake tastes best when you let it cool down completely and enjoy within the day it is made. You can also put them in an air-tight container and store at room temperature. If you store them in the fridge, when serving simply put the cakes on a plate with a tiny bit of water, cover with a bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds to soften the cakes, let cool and serve.
A pair of giầy cake with a piece of Vietnamese pork paste is the perfect combination between the soft, chewy, fragranced glutinous flour and the salty, rich pork ham. A dish that is simple both in its making and how you enjoy it, but leaves you with a very unforgettable flavour combination.
Happy cooking everyone ^^