Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Most Unusual Food....the story of the rice cake eaten at Tet (Vietnamese New Year)

TET, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year 2009, begins January 26th.
2009 is the Year of the Water Buffalo.
more information about the Vietnamese New Year can be found here
and here

Emperor Hung-Vuong had many sons.
Some pursued literary careers. Others excelled in martial arts.
The youngest prince named Tiet-Lieu, however, loved neither.
Instead, he and his wife and their children chose the countryside where they farmed the land.

One day, toward the end of the year, the emperor met with all his sons. He told them whoever brought him the most special and unusual food would be made the new emperor. Almost immediately, the princes left for their homes and started looking for the most delicious food to offer the emperor. Some went hunting in the forests and brought home birds and animals which they prepared into the most palatable dishes. Some others sailed out to the open sea, trying to catch fish, lobsters and other much loved sea food. Neither the rough sea nor the violent weather could stop them from looking for the best gifts to please the emperor.

In his search, Tiet-Lieu went back to the countryside. He saw that the rice in his paddy fields was ripe and ready to be harvested, Walking by a glutinous rice field, he picked some golden grains on a long stalk. He brought them close to his nose and he could smell a delicate aroma.

His entire family then set out to harvest the rice, Tiet-Lieu himself ground the glutinous rice grains into fine flour. His wife mixed it with water into a soft paste. His children helped by building a fire and wrapping the cakes with leaves. In no time, they finished, and in front of them lay two kinds of cakes: one was round and the other was square in shape.

The round cake was made with glutinous rice dough and was called "banh day" by Tiet-Lieu. He named the square shaped cake "banh chung" which he made with rice, green beans wrapped in leaves. Everybody was extremely happy with the new kind of cakes.

On the first day of Spring, the princes took the gifts of their labor and love to the emperor. One carried a delicious dish of steamed fish and mushrooms. Another brought with him a roasted peacock and some lobsters. All the food was beautifully cooked.

When it was Tiet-Lieu's turn to present his gifts, he carried the "banh chung" and his wife carried the "banh day" to the emperor. Seeing Tiet-Lieu's simple offerings, other princes sneered at them. But after tasting all the food brought to court by his sons, the emperor decided that the first prize should be awarded to Tiet-Lieu.

The emperor then said that his youngest son's gifts were not only the purest, but also the most meaningful because Tiet-Lieu had used nothing except rice which was the basic foodstuff of the people to make them. The emperor gave up the throne and make Tiet-Lieu the new emperor. All the other princes bowed to show respect and congratulated the new emperor.


Rice cake (or Banh Chung) and Banh Day are two types of delicacies which are very popular with the Vietnamese people. Banh Day is served regularly at festivals and ceremonies. It is a rounded, convex cake of glutinous or nep rice, which resembles white dough, soft and sticky. Its cupola-shaped top is said to resemble the shape of the heavenly vault. Banh Chung is served particularly at Vietnamese New Year's festival, which occurs during the first three days of the first month of the lunar calendar. It is a square cake, wrapped in banana leaves and tied with lacings of flexible bamboo slivers. It is a very rich food for the interior contains a filling of bean paste to which may be added small bits of pork meat, both fat and lean. This filling, which is amply seasoned, is pressed between layers of glutinous rice. Its square shape is considered a symbol of the thankfulness of the Vietnamese people for the great abundance of the Earth, which has supplied them with nutritious food throughout the four seasons of the year.

story and info found @

I've provided 2 Bahn Chung Recipes and one really wonderful Youtube vid.

Both recipes take HOURS to prepare.
If using this recipe with children it would probably be best to make one recipe ahead of time to show the children the finished product.

The vid shows a woman preparing the leaves and making the rice cakes.

Very interesting vid, showing the use of leaves to make a box for the rice cake.

Banh Chung
(Vietnamese New Year's cake)

Preparation time: 45 to 55 minutes
(plus overnight soaking)
Cooking time: 4 3/4 hours
(plus 1 hour to cool)

2 cups sticky rice
1/4 cup dried mung beans, hulled
6 ounces boneless pork shoulder or roast, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water
Plastic wrap
Aluminum foil

How to make vietnamese New Year's cake (banh chung)
Place rice in one bowl and mung beans in another. Cover each with water and soak overnight. (*)
In a large bowl, combine pork, onions, fish sauce, and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes.
While pork mixture is marinating, drain rice and beans thoroughly. Add salt to rice and stir well.

In a skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until meat is cooked through but still tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine mung beans and about 1 cup water. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove from heat, drain, and mash beans with a potato masher or fork.

On a countertop, spread out a piece of plastic wrap about 17 inches square. On top of this, place a sheet of aluminum foil of the same size.
Place almost half of the sticky rice in the middle of the foil and shape rice into a square layer.
Top rice with a layer of beans, using half of them.
Place pork slices on top of beans.
Add remaining beans and top off with most of the remaining rice.

Wrap cake by bringing together two edges of foil and plastic wrap. Fold edges over twice and flatten against the side of the packet
Tuck remaining rice into the two open ends of the packet, covering up beans and meat. Fold the open ends as if you were wrapping a gift.

Place packet, folded side down, on another large sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly.
Tie securely with a long piece of heavy string or twine, lengthwise and crosswise. The packet should be square or rectangular.

Place packet in a large stockpot full of water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 4 hours, adding water if necessary.
Remove from heat and cool for 1 hour.

To serve, slice wrapped packet into 4 slices. Unwrap, arrange on a plate, and serve.
Serves 4

(*) When traditional banh chung is prepared in Vietnam, the rice absorbs a slight green color from the banana leaves in which the cakes are wrapped. If youlike a little color in your dish, simply add a drop of green food coloring to the rice and water before leaving to soak.
recipe found at

Banh Chung (Vietnamese Rice Cake)
Recipe #110166 | 7 hours | 1 hour prep |
Vietnamese Lunar New Year(Tet) will never be complete without this cake. It's very heavy, very filling. It takes a LONG time to cook. You read right that it takes 6 hours. And overnight soaking of rice and beans!
SERVES 8 (change servings and units)

200 g glutinous rice, soaked overnight
100-150 g mung beans, soaked overnight
100 g pork, cut into chunks,seasoned with
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

1) You will also need: Strings and 6 phrynium leaves or aluminum foil can be used as substitute.
2) Steam or boil mung bean with half a tsp of salt until soft, may take up to 45 minutes depending on how large your steamer is.
3) Smash bean thoroughly.
4) Place 2 leaves in one direction, slightly overlapping, then 2 perpendicular, also overlapping, and the last layer like the first.
5) If use aluminum foil, place them crossing each other.
6) Place half of the rice on the leaves, topped with half of the mung beans.
7) Lay the pork on top of the beans, and then add the last of the beans followed by last of the rice.
8) Fold the leaves/foils over the cake very tightly into a square, use string to secure the cake.
9) Place in a large pot, cover with water and boil for about 6 hours.
10) Add water every hour if necessary.
11) After 6 hours or so, remove the cake, submerge it into cold water for a few minutes.
12) The cake lasts up to 10 days on a cool dry place.
13) The easiest way to cut up the cake is to open it and use the string to cut it up into 8 portions.
14) Best served with pickled onions.

recipe found at

Another good Banh Chung recipe with great pics including the cooked Banh Chung shown here @ This recipe also includes lots of tips on serving and other stuff.

You can also check out VietworldKitchen for info on cooking and eating Banh Chung

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On Top of Spaghetti.....a favorite camp song

written by Tom Glazer
sung to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey"

On top of spaghetti (on top of spaghetti)
All covered with cheese (all covered with cheese)
I lost my poor meatball (I lost my poor meatball)
When somebody sneezed (when somebody sneezed)

It rolled off the table (it rolled off the table)
And onto the floor (and onto the floor)
And then my poor meatball (and then my poor meatball)
Rolled out of the door (rolled out of the door)

It rolled in the garden (it rolled in the garden)
And under a bush (and under a bush)
And then my poor meatball (and then my poor meatball)
Was nothing but mush (was nothing but mush)

Oh, the mush was as tasty (oh, the mush was as tasty)
As tasty could be (as tasty could be)
And early next summer (and early next summer)
It grew into a tree (it grew into a tree)

The tree was all covered (the tree was all covered)
With beautiful moss (with beautiful moss)
It grew lovely meatballs (it grew lovely meatballs)
And tomato sauce (and tomato sauce)

So if you eat spaghetti (so if you eat spaghetti)
All covered with cheese (all covered with cheese)
Hold on to your meatball (hold on to your meatball)
And don't ever sneeze (and don't ever sneeze)

The history of On Top Of Spaghetti????
Tom Glazer who died at the age of 88 on February 21, 2003 is remembered as a true American Folk Song Singer and composer. One of the songs he popularized was the kid's song "On top of Spaghetti". He recorded this song along with other songs for kids on an album in 1963. Many Internet sites also credit him with writing this song.

Tom Glazer may have added verses to On Top Of Spaghetti, however it is very likely a group of kids attending a summer arts and craft camp in 1957 actually made up the original verses, 6 years before Tom Glazer recorded It.

to read the rest of this article go to

Easy Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (you may also used ground turkey)
1 1/4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (optional)
1 egg, beaten

1 (28 ounce) jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 (16 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.25 ounce) can tomato puree

1 pkg of Spaghetti

In a bowl, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, garlic, onion, and egg.
Using wet hands, form mixture into meatballs.

In a slow cooker, mix the spaghetti sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato puree.
Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture.
Cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but firm to the bite.
Drain and move onto serving platter.
Spoon the sauce and meatballs over the pasta.

(this is a combination of more than one of the original recipes can be found at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Butter, Butter, Butter!!!....1 story, 2 recipes and 2 poems

Brer Rabbit Nibbles the Butter
African-American Tale

There was a time when all the animals just kept on getting more and more familiar with one another, until by and by it wasn't long before Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and Brer Possum got to sort of bunching their provisions together in the same shanty.

After a while the roof sort of began to leak, and one day Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and Brer Possum assembled to see if they couldn't kind of patch it up.

They had a big day's work in front of them, and they fetched their dinner with them. They lumped the vittles up in one pile, and the butter that Brer Fox brought, they went and put it in the spring-house to keep it cool, and then they went to work.

It wasn't long before Brer Rabbit's stomach began to sort of growl and pester him. Brer Fox's butter sat heavy on his mind, and his mouth watered every time he remembered it.

Presently he said to himself that he would like to have a nip at the butter.
So commenced to figurin' out a plan.

First thing you know, while they were working along, Brer Rabbit raised his head quickly and flung his ears forward, and hollered out, "Here I am! What do you want with me?" and off he went, like something was after him.

After he made sure that nobody was following him, he bounced into the spring-house, and there he stayed until he got a helping of butter. Then he sauntered on back and went to work.

"Where have you been?" said Brer Fox.

"I heard my children calling me," said Brer Rabbit, "and I had to go see what they wanted. My old woman has gone and taken sick," he said.

They worked on until by and by the butter tasted so good that old Brer Rabbit wanted some more. Then he raised up his head, he did, and hollered out, "Alright! Hold on! I'm a-coming!" And off he went.

This time he stayed a good while, and when he got back, Brer Fox asked him where he'd been.

"I've been to see my old woman, and she's sinkin' ," he said.

Directly Brer Rabbit heard them calling him again, and off he went, and this time, he got the butter out so clean that he could see himself in the bottom of the bucket. He scraped it clean and licked it dry, and then he went back to work.

"How's your old woman this time?" said Brer Fox.

"I'm obliged to you, Brer Fox," said Brer Rabbit, "but I'm afraid that she's real bad off now," and that sort of made Brer Fox and Brer Possum feel bad for Brer Rabbit.

By and by, when dinnertime came, they all got out their vittles, but Brer Rabbit kept on looking lonesome, and Brer Fox and Brer Possum, they sort of rustled around to see if they couldn't make Brer Rabbit feel better.

Brer Fox and Brer Possum rustled around, they did, getting out the vittles, and by and by Brer Fox, he said, "Brer Possum, you run down to the spring and fetch the butter, and I'll set the table," he said.

Brer Possum, he loped off after the butter, and directly he came loping back with his ears a-trembling and his tongue a-hanging out.

"Brer Fox!" he hollered out.

"What's the matter now, Brer Possum?" he said.

"You all had better run, folks" said Brer Possum. "The last drop of that butter is gone."

"Where did it go?" said Brer Fox.

"It looks like it dried up," said Brer Possum.

Then Brer Rabbit, he looked sort of solemn, he did, and he up and said, "I suspect that the butter melted in somebody's mouth," he said.

Then they went down to the spring with Brer Possum, and sure enough, the butter was gone. While they were talking about the mystery, Brer rabbit said that he could see tracks all around there, and he pointed out that if they would all go to sleep, he could catch the chap that stole the butter.

They all lay down, and Brer Fox and Brer Possum, they soon dropped off to sleep, but Brer Rabbit, he stayed awake, and when the time came, he got up real quiet like, and smeared Brer Possum's mouth with the butter on his paws.

Then he ran off and nibbled up the best of the dinner that they had left lying out, and then he came back and woke up Brer Fox and showed him the butter on Brer Possum's mouth.

They woke up Brer Possum and told him about it, but of course Brer Possum denied it to the last.

Now Brer Fox, he's kind of a lawyer, and he argued this way: that Brer Possum was the first one at the butter, and the first one to miss it, and more than that, there were the signs on his mouth.

Brer Possum could see that they had him jammed up in a corner, and then he up and said that the way to catch the man that stole the butter was to build a big brush heap and set it on fire, and everyone would try to jump over it, and the one that fell in, that would be the chap that stole the butter.

Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, they both agreed, they did, and they whirled in and built the brush heap, and they built it high, and they built it wide, and then they touched it off.

When it got to blazing up good, Brer Rabbit he took the first turn. He sort of stepped back, and looked around and giggled, and over he went, just like a bird flying.

Then came Brer Fox. He got back a little further, and spit on his hands, and lit out and made the jump, and he came so close to falling in that his tail caught fire.

(Next time you see a fox, you look right close and see if the end of his tail isn't white. To this day all foxes bear the same mark.)

Well, next came Old Brer Possum.
He took a running start, he did, and he came lumbering along, and he lit -- kerblam! -- right in the middle of the fire.

Now ya know that til that day Possums used ta have nice bushy tails but that fire burned the hair right off old Brer Posssum's tail.
And from that day to this, possums have hairless tails.

based on story by Joel Chandler Harris in Uncle Remus; His Songs and His Sayings...first published in 1880....retold by LLL,Storysinger

Betty Botter bought some butter,
But, she said, the butter's bitter;
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter,
But a bit of better butter
Will make my batter better.
So she bought a bit of butter
Better than her bitter butter,
And she put it in her batter
And the batter was not bitter.
So 'twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.

Come, butter, come,
Come, butter, come;
Peter stands at the gate
Waiting for a butter cake.
Come, butter, come.

Recipe to make Easy Homemade Butter

You will need whipping cream and a glass jar with a lid.

Place the cream in the jar. Cover with the lid.

Now, Shake, shake shake and shake!

Keep shaking till the cream turns into butter.
You may want to have friends help you shake, cause this may take a while!

You can also use a food processer to make butter.
It's basically the same process. Just put the cream in the processer and turn it on.

Yield: About half as much butter as the amount of cream you started with.

Butter Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted or stirred before measuring
dash salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture; mixing until well blended.
Shape dough into small balls.
Place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake butter cookies at 300° for 20 minutes, or until just lightly browned.
Makes 5 to 6 dozen butter cookies.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Magpie's Nest


Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme
And monkeys chewed tobacco,
And hens took snuff to make them tough,
And ducks went quack, quack, quack, O!

All the birds of the air came to the Magpie and asked her to teach them how to build nests. For the magpie is the cleverest bird of all at building nests. So she put all the birds round her and began to show them how to do it.

First of all she took some mud and made a sort of round cake with it.

"Oh, that's how it's done," said the Thrush; and away it flew, and so that's how thrushes build their nests.

Then the magpie took some twigs and arranged them round in the mud.

"Now I know all about it," says the Blackbird, and off he flew; and that's how the blackbirds make their nests to this very day.

Then the magpie put another layer of mud over the twigs.

"Oh that's quite obvious," said the wise Owl, and away it flew; and owls have never made better nests since.

After this the magpie took some twigs and twined them round the outside.

"The very thing!" said the Sparrow, and off be went; so sparrows make rather slovenly nests to this day.

Well, then Madge Magpie took some feathers and stuff and lined the nest very comfortably with it.

"That suits me," cried the Starling, and off it flew; and very comfortable nests have starlings.

So it went on, every bird taking away some knowledge of how to build nests, but, none of them waiting to the end.

Meanwhile Madge Magpie went on working and working without, looking up till the only bird that remained was the Turtle-dove, and that hadn't paid any attention all along, but only kept on saying its silly cry "Take two, Taffy, take two-o-o-o."

At last the magpie heard this just as she was putting a twig across.
So she said: "One's enough."

But the turtle-dove kept on saying: "Take two, Taffy, take two-o-o-o."

Then the magpie got angry and said: "One's enough I tell you."

Still the turtle-dove cried: "Take two, Taffy, take two-o-o-o."

At last, the magpie looked up and saw nobody near her but the silly turtle-dove, and then she got rare angry and flew away and refused to tell the birds how to build nests again.

And that is why different birds build their nests differently.

[from English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs written in 1890]

Bird's Nest
(Also known as "toad in the hole", "egg in a nest" and "bullseye" )

( picture found at The Barefoot Kitchen Witch )

2 (1-inch-thick) slices of bread (I like to use Challa Bread but it works with all types)
1 tablespoon butter
2 large eggs

Optional: shaped cookie cutter

Cut with cookie cutter or tear a 1 1/2-inch hole out of each slice of bread.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat, and melt the butter until it foams.

Add the bread slices (I also add the cut out pieces of bread).

Crack an egg into each bread hole, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the egg sets.
Flip and repeat.