Tag: Against The Grain Produtions

Banh Chung Banh Day – A New Year Story for Tet by ATG

BanhChungBanhDay1Long, long ago in Vietnam, there lived an ancient King named King Hung Vuong. He was a wise and thoughtful king who always tried to please his people and consider new ideas, and because of this, he was loved by his people. King Vuong grew old and he knew that soon it would be time to pass his kingdom on to his successor. The only trouble was that the King Vuong had three healthy sons, and he did not know who would be the best choice. King Vuong, being a wise and caring King, thought very hard about this problem, and in due course, came upon a solution.

He called his three sons together. Rising up to his feet, he declared,”Sons you are all wise and strong, but only one of you can rule our precious Vietnam. So, I have devised a plan to determine which of you shall rule after my passing.” All of the members of the court and his three sons listened attentively, because King Vuong was known to be the wisest ruler in the whole of Asia.

King Vuong continued, “I would like each of you to provide for me a dish of food. You must search for the ingredients, make the dish and serve it to me on the last day of this Lunar Month. On the basis of this dish, I will decide who is to be the ruler of our Kingdom.”


Immediately after the words had left this King’s mouth, the attendants at the court began to talk in hushed whispers. They knew that this was a very wise pronouncement of their King, because Vietnam, with its large population and small land area, must always give attention to food production to make sure that each person is well fed and healthy.

The three brothers stared in disbelief, “How could our father suggest such a method of deciding? Why does he not test our strength?” said the first brother. “Why does he not he test our computational skills?” said the second brother, surprised. The third and youngest brother just looked at the court and his father and made no comment.

Within days, the two elder brothers had organized their servants and horses and carriages and were racing all over Vietnam and even to other parts of South East Asia to find the most delectable and delicious ingredients for the dish. One brother took a boat out into the South China Sea to fish for the finest tasting fish. The other brother went into the Khmer Mountains to find the most tender boar meat. Yet, the youngest Prince Tiet Lieu, stayed at home and sat on his front step, pondering his father’s request.

By the end of the Lunar Month, each of the brothers had prepared their dishes and came before the whole of the Vietnamese royal court and their wise father King Vuong to present it. The first brother came to the father and presented a fine porcelain dish of flying fish dressed in a sweet chili sauce accompanied by expensive lotus seeds. A hush came over the court as the father viewed the dish and placed it on the table. The second brother came forward, and he opened a large copper cauldron and presented a dish of boar dressed with wild mushrooms and a rare wild fern sauce. Again, all the court watched the father place the cauldron on the table. Then Prince Tiet Lieu came forward and opened his basket and displayed a large flat rice cake. The court and his brothers gasped! Noone would dare offer such simple fare to the royal King Vuong.

BanhChungBanhDay3King Vuong said, “Prince Tiet Lieu, tell me why you have chosen to present me with such a simple rice cake.”

Prince Tiet Lieu said, “Rice is the most precious and valuable of all food found in this kingdom, yet it is also the most abundant. I have prepared a dish that represents my love for you and our beautiful Vietnam. I have cooked it thoroughly then molded it into a round rice cake, and called it Banh Day, as it symbolizes the sky we live under. I have cooked a square rice cake, stuffed it with cooked bean paste and ground meat in the middle and called it Banh Chung. This will symbolize the earth we live on.”

As Prince Tiet Lieu spoke, his two elder brothers tried to mask the grandness of their dishes, as they now understood the wisdom of their younger brother in using ingredients that all the people of Vietnam could have access to. Immediately they fell to their knees in front of their father and younger brother and bowed at the same time the whole court bowed to the father and son, as everyone knew that Prince Tiet Lieu would make the finest King to rule after his wise father King Vuong. After that, King Hung Vuong ordered that this recipe be passed out to all people in his kingdom.


As the result, the Vietnamese custom is that every year during the New Year celebration, the Vietnamese people cook Banh Chung and Banh Day and use them as special offerings to their ancestors as well as special gifts to relatives and friends during the Tet celebrations. The Banh Chung is very nutritious, has a unique, tasty flavor and may be kept for a long time. All of its ingredients and materials, from the green wrapping leaves to sticky rice and pork, green beans and pepper inside, are all medicine (according to Oriental Medicine) that act to keep harmony between the positive and the negative, thus helping the blood circulate well and preventing diseases.

Together with Banh Chung Banh Day, the Vietnamese people normally eat Banh Cuon (Fun rolls) and Cha (special meat roll made with pork, or beef, or chicken) during the Lunar New Year—because those are so goods and simply because Cha can be preserved for a while in the cold climate, when the markets are not open during the Lunar New Year period (normally 1-2 weeks after the New Year). In Vietnam, there are almost no commercial activities during New Year and a week after so that everyone who works from far away can come back and celebrate the New Year with their family.
BanhChungBanhDay5In Vietnam, family members normally gather for the Banh Chung Cookout. After wrapping the Banh Chung, people put them in a huge pot and cook them for 10-12 hours, depending how large the Banh Chung are. During this cooking period, family members normally gather around the pot and sing traditional songs or tell stories.

Today, ATG volunteers brought the Tet spirit to the children of SPC Danang- House 3&4 by feeding them with Banh Cuon and Cha. (We fed the children this dish last Lunar New Year celebration and they asked if they could have that dish again for this occasion). Though Banh Cuon and Cha are inexpensive in the US, they are pretty pricey and are considered out-of-reach for the little budget of the orphanages such as SPC DN-house 3&4. As the volunteers set up the food, the children gathered around the volunteers to sing and chat happily. We also helped the children celebrate the Banh Chung Cookout. A huge pot filled with pre-wrapped Banh Chung was set up outside in the play yard. After the meal, the children gathered around the Banh Chung pot and continue to sing and listened to the story of Banh Chung Banh Day. On a cold day like this, we felt warm with happy thoughts, as we were able to bring the Tet tradition together with hope and happiness to the children. We hope they feel the same!

BanhChungBanhDay6 BanhChungBanhDay7 BanhChungBanhDay9 BanhChungBanhDay8 BanhChungBanhDay10


Sự tích Bánh Chưng Bánh Dày

Ngày xưa, ở Việt Nam có một vị vua già tên là Hùng Vương. Ngài là một vì vua thông minh và biết quan tâm người khác, Ngài luôn cố làm hài lòng hết thảy dân chúng trong vương quốc và luôn quan tâm xem xét các ý tưởng mới lạ và chính vì lẽ đó mà vua Hùng được mọi người hết mực yêu mến. Vua Hùng ngày một già và đã đến lúc trao ngôi báu lại cho người nối ngôi, vua chỉ băn khoăn một điều là Ngài có ba hoàng tử khỏe mạnh và không biết phải chọn ai trong số họ. Vua rất khôn ngoan và suy nghĩ cặn kẽ về việc này và tình cờ Ngài đã nảy ra một cách giải quyết rất đúng lúc.

Ngài gọi ba hoàng tử của mình đến và đứng dậy phán rằng; “Hỡi các con, các con ai nấy cũng đều thông minh và khỏe mạnh nhưng chỉ một trong các con sẽ là người lên trị vì nước Việt Nam yêu dấu của chúng ta. Thế nên ta đã nghĩ ra kế hoạch chọn người sẽ nối ngôi khi ta băng hà.” Hết thảy quần thần trong triều và ba hoàng tử đều lắng nghe hết sức chăm chú vì ai cũng biết rằng vua Hùng là vị vua trị vì thông minh nhất Châu Á.

Vua Hùng tiếp; “Ta muốn mỗi anh em con phải dâng cho ta một món ăn, các con phải tìm lấy cách làm và thành phần để chế biến và sẽ dâng lên ta vào ngày cuối tháng âm lịch này, và ta sẽ biết để chọn xem ai sẽ là người nối ngôi ta.”

Ngay khi vua vừa dứt lời thì cả triều đình bắt đầu bàn tán thì thầm. Họ hiểu rằng đây là lời phán rất thông minh của Ngài bởi lẽ đất nước Việt Nam nhỏ hẹp với một lượng dân số to lớn như vậy thì chắc hẳn ai cũng phải để ý tới việc sản xuất lương thực để đảm bảo rằng ai cũng được no đầy và khỏe mạnh.

Cả ba hoàng tử nhìn nhau ngờ vực; “Làm thế nào vua cha lại có thể đề nghị cách quyết định này được chứ? Tại sao cha không thử sức mạnh của chúng ta nhỉ?”, hoàng tử thứ nhất hỏi. Hoàng tử thứ hai cũng ngạc nhiên “tại sao vua cha không thử tài tính toán của chúng ta?” Vị hoàng tử út thứ ba chỉ nhìn các quần thần và vua cha mà không nói năng gì.

Trong nhiều ngày liền hai vị hoàng tử đầu đã mang theo xe ngựa và người hầu đi khắp Việt Nam, thậm chí ở cả những khu vực thuộc vùng Đông Nam Á để tìm cho được các thành phần ngon nhất về nấu món ngon cho cha. Một người đã đi thuyền qua tận Hải Nam (Biển Đông) để câu được cá ngon nhất, người khác lên tận vùng núi Khmer để tìm món thịt lợn hấp dẫn nhất. Còn Hoàng tử Tiết Liêu ở nhà ngồi ở bậc thềm trước nhà, suy nghĩ về lời yêu cầu của vua cha.

Vào cuối tháng âm lịch mỗi hoàng tử đều đã chuẩn bị món ăn của mình và dâng lên cho vua cha trước mặt tất cả các quần thần trong triều. Vị hoàng tử đầu tiên dâng cho cha món cá chuồn nấu bằng tương ớt thơm lừng và hạt sen đắt tiền trong tô sứ rất ngon mắt. Cả triều đình im phăng phắc khi vua cha xem qua món ăn và đặt nó trở lại trên bàn. Vị hoàng tử thứ hai lên phiá trước và mở cái vạc đồng dâng lên cho cha miếng đùi lợn nấu với nấm rừng và nước xốt dương xỉ rừng quý hiếm. Lại một lần nữa cả triều đình chìm trong im lặng nhìn vua cha đặt cái vạc trên bàn. Đến lượt Hoàng tử Tiết Liêu bước về phiá trước, mở cái giỏ của mình và bày ra một chiếc bánh làm bằng gạo rất to bằng phẳng. Cả triều đình và hai anh của Tiết Liêu đều há hốc miệng kinh ngạc, chẳng ai dám dâng cho vua cha một món ăn quá đơn giản như thế.

Vua Hùng bảo, “Tiết Liêu, nói cho cha nghe tại sao con lại chọn món bánh gạo đơn giản như thế để dâng lên cho cha?”

Hoàng tử Tiết Liêu tâu, “Gạo là thứ ăn quý giá nhất trong vương quốc này, và gạo cũng là thực phẩm dồi dào nhất. Con đã chuẩn bị một món ăn để có thể bày tỏ tình yêu của con đối với cha và cả đất nước Việt Nam xinh đẹp của chúng ta nữa. Con đã nấu chín gạo và đúc vào trong khuôn bánh tròn, và gọi là Bánh Dày để tượng trưng cho bầu trời mà chúng ta đang sống đây. Con cũng nấu một chiếc bánh gạo vuông vức, ở giữa có nhân đậu chín và thịt băm nhỏ được gọi là Bánh Chưng. Đây tượng trưng cho trái đất mà chúng ta đang sống.

Khi Hoàng tử Tiết Liêu nói xong thì hai người anh của chàng cũng cố che đi vẻ to lớn của các món ăn của mình vì giờ đây họ đã hiểu ra sự khôn ngoan của em mình khi dùng những thành phần chế biến thức ăn mà tất cả người Việt Nam đều có được. Ngay lập tức họ quỳ xuống dưới chân đức vua cha và hoàng tử út đồng thời toàn thể triều thần cũng cúi đầu trước vua cha và Hoàng tử Tiết Liêu vì tất cả đã biết rằng Tiết Liêu sẽ là một vì vua tốt nhất sau vua cha. Sau đó, vua Hùng truyền lệnh cho công thức làm bánh này phổ biến cho hết thảy mọi người trong vương quốc của Ngài.

Vì thế, Việt Nam có phong tục là hằng năm cứ đến Tết là người Việt nấu bánh Chưng và Bánh Dày và dùng như món đồ cúng đặc biệt dành để cúng tổ tiên và là món quà đặc biệt dành tặng người thân và bạn bè trong dịp Tết. Bánh Chưng rất bổ dưỡng, có hương vị thơm ngon độc đáo và có thể giữ được trong một thời gian dài. Tất cả các thành phần và nguyên liệu dùng để làm bánh, từ lá gói xanh tới gạo nếp và thịt heo, đậu xanh và tiêu bên trong nhân, tất cả đều là các vị thuốc (theo đông y) có thể giữ cân bằng âm dương giúp máu lưu thông tốt và ngăn ngừa bệnh tật nữa.

Wanted: 2014 ATG Board Members

ATG Team at Fashion for a Passion. Courtesy of  Chi Tran Photography.
ATG Team at Fashion for a Passion. Courtesy of Chi Tran Photography.

Professional. Committed. Passionate. Great Time Management. Excellent follow through. Mature. Resourceful. Creative. ATG Attitude.

The ingredients of an ATG Leader.

Are you looking to make a difference? Want to get more involved with the community? Want to make amazing friends and have life changing experiences?

ATG is currently recruiting skilled, enthusiastic, dedicated and experienced leaders who have the necessary time to join our 2014 Board of Directors and Committee Chairs!

Here are the current open positions: 

Vice President

1. Is a member of the Board

 2. Performs President responsibilities when the President cannot be available. 

 3. Reports to the Board’s President

 4. Works closely with the President and other Board members 

5. Participates closely with the President to develop and implement officer transition plans.

 6. Performs other responsibilities as assigned by the Board. Skills needed: Non-profit leadership, project management, strong communication/organization skills, experience in social media and fundraising, relationship builder, strategic thinker.



1. Is a member of the Board 

2. Maintains records of the board and ensures effective management of organization’s records 

3. Manages minutes of board meetings

 4. Ensures minutes are distributed to members shortly after each meeting 

5. Is sufficiently familiar with legal documents (articles, by-laws, IRS letters, etc.) to note applicability during meetings. 6. Participates in fundraising for the organizationSkills needed: Human resources/organizational behavior, strong communication/organization skills, MS Word/Excel.


1. Is a member of the Board

 2. Manages finances of the organization and creates monthly income/expense reports.

 3. Administrates fiscal matters of the organization, including audit and tax filing. 

4. Provides annual budget to the board for members’ approval.

 5. Ensures development and board review of financial policies and procedures. 6. Participates in fundraising for the organizationSkills needed: CPA/Finance background, budgeting & forecasting, strong communication/organization skills, MS Excel. detail oriented, thorough & accurate.


Director of Community Outreach

1. Is a member of the Board. 2. Plans programs and presentations that will translate the organization’s mission to the community. 3. Provide organization linkage and partnerships to other organizations and individuals (including volunteers), working with Directors of Marketing/PR in raising awareness of the organization to the community. 4. Oversee scholarship application and review process. 5. Is an active participant in the committee’s annual evaluation and planning efforts. 

6. Participates in fundraising for the organizationSkills needed: Non-profit leadership, project management, strong communication/organization skills, relationship builder.


Director of Marketing/Public Relations

1. Is a member of the Board. 2. Spearhead campaigns to increase community awareness of organization by means of traditional methods (create branding, printed marketing and promotional materials including postcards, pamphlets, brochures, brag book, display board) and Social Media outlets (update and maintain blogs/website,  e-campaign, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube).  3.  Write news stories and press releases, acting as key liaison to print and news/media organizations and individuals.  5. Is an active participant in the committee’s annual evaluation and planning efforts.

 6. Participates in fundraising for the organizationSkills needed:  English/PR/Advertising background, strong press/newsletter writing skills, strong communication/organization skills, time management, ability to work accurately and efficiently under tight turn-around/deadlines, experience in social media and graphic design a plus.

Director of Fundraising

1. Is a member of the Board. 2. Strategize and lead year-round fundraising campaigns to search for funds, donations and sponsorships through grants, public solicitation, business partnerships and annual events (including Fashion for a Passion).  3. Is an active participant in the committee’s annual evaluation and planning efforts.

 4. Participates in fundraising for the organizationSkills needed: Fundraising/project management, strong communication/organization skills, outgoing, relationship builder, strategic thinker, detail-oriented, thorough & accurate, results-oriented, focused.

Director of Programming/Events

1. Work with President and Director of Fundraising and Director of Community Outreach to spearhead organization of  Fashion for a Passion, Groundbreakers Speak, Cocktails for a Cause and any other programming/charity events throughout the year. 2. Research and recruit for designers, artists, musicians, speakers (event participants) 3. Research and secure venue, vendors and volunteer team. 4. In charge of day of logistics. Skills needed: Proven event planning experience, project management skills, detail oriented, ability to work and perform well under high-stress while multi-tasking.

Social Media Chair (non Board)

1. Work with Marketing/Public Relations and Community Outreach Directors to  maintain active and regular presence via Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube/Vimeo, website/blog, etc) to increase public awareness and promotion of organization. 2. Increase search engine optimization. 3. Comprehension of all forms of social media a must. 4. Reports to Director or Marketing/Public Relations. Skills needed:  English/PR/Advertising background, strong  writing skills, strong communication/organization skills, time management, ability to work accurately and efficiently under tight turn-around/deadlines, experience in social media and graphic design a plus.

Graphic Designer (non Board)

1. Design printed and online marketing collateral, including brochures, display signage, press packets, email campaigns. 2. Knowledge of Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator a must. 3. Reports to Director(s) of Marketing/Public Relations.


Historian (non Board)

1. Photographer/videographer to document ATG’s on-going activities. 2. Create scrapbook and year-end photo/video montage. 3. Attendance at all events is mandatory. 4. Reports to Director(s) of Marketing/Public Relations

Street Team (non Board)

1. Assist with Marketing/PR team to help with promotion of organization and fundraising efforts through social media, community outreach and annual charity events. 2. Attend and assist at annual community festivals.

 Advisor (appointed by President)

1. Advise President with areas including a) Orphanage Aid 2) Logistics 3) Non-profit leadership management 4) Organizational strategic planning


Please fill out and return the ATG Board Application along with your cover letter and resume to Tammy@thebabylift.com by Friday, December 6th. Board elections will be held end of December and announced before the New Year.

Mark your calendar also for the 2014 ATG Board Retreat, a mandatory half day introduction/training that will take place either Saturday, January 4th or Sunday, January 5th.

ATG Gives Back – Orphanage Update

Recent typhoons have threatened Vietnam with the biggest floods in decades. We had sent funds over just in time before the storms hit. Luckily, one of our own orphanages only faced minor damages during the flood and sent us a very heart-warming email. Here is the their message, translated into English:

Dear ATG family,

Hope everyone is well. The bad storm and its flood were so horrific. The wind was up to level 14 and 15 and caused much damage to the Central and Mountain area of Vietnam, destroying many lives and properties.  The lives of the people in these areas, most of whom are already poor, now have become more difficult.  I saw the news and felt so bad for them.

At least [we] were not hurt.  After the storm and the flood, everyone is safe and the house is not damaged.  The bedrooms of the kids and the kitchen were flooded as high as 30 cm.  After the water retreated, the older kids and I cleaned up the mud for 3 days.  However, even when everyone were tired and busy, I felt that I could not let the children go without the Mid-Autumn festival.  Thus, I have organized a small celebration for the children from Uu Dam and other kids from the disadvantaged families in the neighborhood.  The children were so happy and encouraged.   I attached a few pictures of Uu Dam family as we faced the flood and enjoyed the Mid-Autumn Fest thanks to ATG family.  Wishing everyone at ATG happy and healthy.



Children of the orphanage during the floods
Cleaning up from the flood damage
Sister with the children celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival