Tet holiday is a special occasion of Vietnamese culture. The Vietnamese believe that on the first day of the New Year (according to Lunar Calendar), it’s the time for a family reunion. Relatives and friends for a long time no see will meet and discuss what they have been done and gone through for a past year. Therefore, celebrating a special meal for Lunar New Year day in Vietnam with various traditional dishes is quite important. The reason is that Vietnamese people before consuming dishes, they have to bring to their ancestor as a ritual to memorize and hope their ancestors to give luck, wealth and health for the new year comes up. Here are the top 8 dishes that most Vietnamese families frequently cook for their relatives and friends.
Red Sticky Rice (Xoi gac)
Xoi aka Sticky Rice is a necessary dish that every family in the Northside must have in their traditional dishes. Red sticky rice is made by the Gac fruit that will be cooked with the sticky rice. North people in Vietnam believe that when they eat Red sticky rice in the Lunar New Year, it will bring good fortune for their family. Besides of Red sticky rice, there are other variables of the sticky rice such as xoi lac (peanut sticky rice) and xoi dau xanh (mung beans sticky).
Vietnamese Braised Pork With Eggs (Thit Kho Hot Vit)
Thit Kho Hot Vit is the main dish in Lunar New Year in every family. The reason is that the egg represents happiness and goodness. Porks are cut into smaller square pieces and soak in garlic. After that, chefs will add fish sauce, coconut water, sugar, and hard-boiled peeled eggs. Then, chefs will cook them for a few hours until porks and the eggs absorb spices and the coconut water.
Bitter Melon Stuffed With Meat Soup (Canh Kho Qua)
In the South of Vietnam, bitter melon soup is their traditional dish in every Lunar New Year. Bitter melon not only is a healthy and fully nutrition in every meal but also, in the Lunar New Year, it has a special meaning. Bitter melon Vietnamese meaning called “khổ qua” which mean the difficulties passed. Therefore, when people in South Vietnam eat this dish, it symbolized for the old things had passed and they are ready for the news to come up.
Vietnamese Pork Head Ham (Gio Thu)
Pork head ham is a traditional dish that chefs take the ingredients mostly from pig’s head. To do pork head ham properly, chefs will chop down ears and head meat becomes dices and mix with wood-ear (black mushroom), garlic, pepper, fish sauce, and other spices. After mixing them all, chefs will stir them on the pan with low heat to ensure they could be medium-well. Then, chefs wrap them up by banana leaves and tie it carefully.
Finished pork head ham considered to be a good Giò Thủ when the ham has the marble texture that you could see the cartilage at the time you peel the banana leaves out. The taste I experienced is that it has chewy, crunchy of the cartilage, and meaty of the pig’s head meat. You could also eat this dish with pickled to gain the flavor while enjoying the traditional meal in Lunar New Year.
Frozen Meat (Thit Dong)
In the winter-spring at the Northen Vietnam, the climate which is cooler than every home, thus the frozen meat was born. Frozen meat is a combination with various protein such as from the chicken, pork, pork skin, and some vegetables. After prepared them all, chefs will cook them up and leave it to cool down. Then, the chefs will cover the pot and chill in the open air until the soup freeze as a static block.
A perfect dish of frozen meat will have a thin layer of fat at the top and frozen meat layer – shaped like jelly will be bottom it. You can eat like a local people if you can combine the frozen meat with other components. Eat along with the frozen meat, there are rice and pickled onion and it will make as a wonderful combination. The heat of the rice will melt down the soup of the frozen meat and the fat, the smell is unforgettable.
Sticky Square/Round Cake (Banh Chung/ Banh Tet)
Here is an ancient dish that has appeared for a long time ago and up to now. Based on the old myth stories, at the Hung dynasty, these two cakes are made to serve the gods, expressing gratitude to the ancestors, and symbolized for ground and the sky. The process of making this dish quite takes time and need lots of contribution of several people while as the fast-food nowadays is very quick.
Main ingredients to become Bánh Chưng and Bánh Tét are glutinous rice, pork, and mung beans or banana. Chefs will wrap them all with banana leaves. The finished dish could have the green cover also the good smell from the banana leaves. Before wrapping and boiling the cake, glutinous rice will be soaked into water for a few days because the rice will be softened and fine. The force to tight the cake neither too powerful nor loose so that the banana leaf covered could hold the cake properly. Try this cake once with pickled vegetables will bring your unforgettable flavor.
Pickled Vegetables (Rau Cu Ngam Chua)
Eat along with Chung and Tet cake, there are pickled vegetables. Pickled vegetables are the one that every family must have on their meal in the Lunar New Year. Pickled vegetables could be made with many different kinds of vegetables like onions, carrots, garlic, etc. The name to say with different kinds of pickled vegetables are “dua chua” (pickled mustard cabbage), “dua gia” (pickled bean sprout”, “dua hanh” (pickled spring onion), etc.
Candied Fruits (Mut Trai Cay)
For children, they also have their own traditional dishes. By creating candy made by fruit, the purpose is to attract and welcome children come to Vietnamese houses. The reason is that children could stay at their house to have while they are enjoying these little snacks. It’s very simple and quick to make the candied fruit. There are some available fruits that chefs could take and make this dish like coconut, kiwi, banana, Vietnamese cherry, ginger, sweet potato, kumquat, tamarind, etc. Though it seems to be as a snack for children, it also has many useful and healthy for your body. For example like ginger could support your digestion, kumquat could relieve the sore throats and ease hangovers. Moreover, for the adults, they often eat candied lotus seeds while having a talk and drinking tea. It also helps them to have better sleep.
Generally, the Tet holiday with Vietnamese people is a very special day. It’s the time for families reunion and shares their stories that have been through past of a year. If you have time to visit Vietnam at the Lunar New Year, just try it without hesitation. I know that you will have a unique experience ever of all the time.