It's common for folks in Vietnam to ring in their Lunar New Year, Tết, with banh chung
, a comfort dish that's typically found in delis and sandwich shops, especially in the country's north.
Tết is still a month and a half off, but as our own new year approaches the folks at Madison Heights' Le Banh Mi — who hail from the city of Huế – have us covered for the American New Year with its stock of banh chung.
Though the nice old lady who runs the tiny shop barely speaks English, she was able to explain that bahn chung
is a hefty brick of sticky rice and mung bean encasing a nugget of crumbled, peppery pork. The package is tightly wrapped in fragrant banana leaves that impart a tea-like flavor in the rice and mung. The black pepper bite is heavy, but works wonderfully with the salty dish. Another customer in Le Banh Mi characterized it as "a Vietnamese tamale," which is an interesting comparison, though it could also be called a dumpling.
A variation of the banh chung
that Le Banh Mi also prepares each morning is the banh gio
, which is clearly more dumpling-like, consisting of a dough of flour, starch, and broth. Like its cousin, salty and peppery pork crumbles are encased in the banh gio
, along with mushrooms and shallots, though the shape is more pyramid-like than brick-like.
And the price is right at $2.95 each. Though banh chung
is typically cut up and served to the family around Tết, now's the time to stock up for the American New Year's Eve.