To people from all over the world, New Year is a big occasion but to the Vietnamese, this is really an important holiday. On this time, they think that everything should be prepared well, early, and newly before coming of a new year. Besides shopping, cleaning and decorating home to prepare for Tet, an activity that they have to do is preparing Vietnamese traditional food to worship the ancestors, invite the guests, and eat in the first 3 New Year days. So what do the Vietnamese eat on Vietnam Lunar New Year?
The dates of Lunar New Year differs every year but it generally takes place around late January or February. On Vietnam Lunar New Year (also called Tet holiday), people has about 7 days of work, so this is an occasion to reunite family members, meet and chat with people who return home after a year living far away from others, and it is also the opportunity to visit acquaintances, relatives, and friends in the longest leisure time period on the year. Therefore, the preparation Vietnamese traditional food for New Year is extremely important.
Vietnamese traditional food in the North of Vietnam
Banh Chung – Sticky Rice Cake (Or Chung Cake)
In the North of Vietnam, What do the Vietnamese eat on Vietnam Lunar New Year? One of the best Vietnamese traditional food is sticky rice cake or Chung Cake. This type of cake is the spirit of the Vietnamese New Year days, expressing the essence of the heaven and the earth through the skillful hands of humans. On Tet, it is indispensable that the ancestor altar in the North has a pair of green Chung Cake.
In the past, from many days before Tet, Vietnamese locals prepare to packs and boil Chung Cake in an uproarious atmosphere. However, due to the social development nowadays, it is hard to find out a family who do that by themselves, but people who buy Chung Cake for Tet will definitely choose the cakes made from the best ingredients.
It should be made from the most fragrant glutinous rice for better “longevity”. The stuffing of Chung Cake usually contains pork, masticated green bean, dried onion, and pepper. To make this cake, people need to be careful because the cakes need to be wrapped tightly and carefully, boiled for about 14 hours, taken out, soaked in water and squeezed using a heavy plank. Therefore, when Chung Cake is cut, it will be limber but not flabby, just fleshy and fragrant.
Nem Ran – Spring Roll
Fried spring has become a familiar dish to many families in Vietnam, especially on Tet holiday. This simple-to-make dish is one of the most popular Vietnamese New Year food dishes which are enjoyed especially in the North region in Vietnam.
This food can be made easily by using rice papers soaked in water until becoming soft, wraping the mixture of pork, peeled shrimp or crab meat, mushrooms, wood ear, onions, bean sprouts, eggs, pepper, salt, spices…, and then frying them until they become gold in a hot pan with cooking oil.
To make this dish be more tasty, Vietnamese nationals eat Spring Roll with sauce of water, fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, salinity, sweet, sour, spicy flavor and the aroma of garlic, chilli, and pepper.
Thit Dong – Frozen Meat
Frozen meat is a particular dish in the winter-spring period of the Northern Vietnam, because frozen meat is tastier when eating in cold weather. This kind of food is made from meat mixed, sometimes from chicken, plus an array of pork skin. After the ingredients are cooked, the meat pot will be taken out from the heat, covered, frozen thanks to the essence of the land, the sky, the cold wind, and the dew to become a wonderful dish. A piece of frozen meat served with a pickled onion make the true Northern Tet.
Vietnamese traditional food in the Central of Vietnam
Thit Heo Ngam Mam – Meat Soaked in Fish Sauce
Meat soaked in fish sauce is the traditional dish on Tet holiday of the Central Vietnam thanks to the charming taste and easy-to-make process. Over centuries and over generations, many Vietnamese families never forget making meat soaked in fish sauce to serve together in New Year days.
When eating Meat soaked in fish sauce, people roll meat in rice paper with raw veggies, herbs, pickled vegetables, and dipped in sauce mixed with lemon juice, garlic, and chili. People can consume a large amount of meat soaked in fish sauce without feeling cloyed. The salty taste of the fish sauce, the sweetness of sugar, and the aroma, spiciness of chili, pepper, garlic, and ginger make this dish very delicious and memorable. In fact, this is one of the most popular Vietnamese New Year food dishes which are enjoyed especially in the Central region in Vietnam.
Nem Chua – Sour Meat Pie
When knowing that sour meat pie is uncooked, many people do not dare eat this dish when they know that sour meat pie is but they will be definitely “addicted” to the light sourness, sweetness, crunchiness, spiciness, and the fragrance blended on their tongue.
In the Central of Vietnam, people consider this is an indispensable dish on Tet holiday of the Central family. Sour meat pie is made from pureed fresh pork mixed with pork skin, marinated with spices, pepper, sliced, chili, and polyscias fruticosa, and fermented for becoming ripe.
Vietnamese traditional food in the South of Vietnam
Banh Tet – Sticky Rice Cake (Tet Cake)
Instead of Chung Cake in the North, Southern people eat Tet Cake (sticky rice cake in cylinder shape) on Tet holiday. In the South, people wrap cake in cylinder shape but there are 2 kinds of Southern Tet Cake: sweet and salted ones.
The sweet Tet Cakes are stuffed with banana and green bean while the salted ones are stuffed with green bean and pork. Tet Cake is started making from 10 days before Tet and they use them to worship the ancestors or give relatives, friends as a Tet present. This is also a main dish in the whole meal to welcome New Year, served with dried shrimp and pickled scallion heads.
Thit Kho Trung – Pork Braised with Eggs
On Tet holiday, most women prepare a pot full of pork braised with eggs for their family. To have a delicious pot of Pork Braised with eggs, housewives go to the markets and supermarkets from the early morning to buy the best lean and fat meat mixed, eggs, and coconut water some days before Tet. To make this dish has good smell and pork has beautiful color, people also use coconut water. The pork braised with egg and coconut water is considered delicious and eye-catching if the sauce in the pot is gold as the color of cockroach wings.
Cu Kieu Tom Kho – Pickled Scallion Heads Served with Dried Shrimp
The last Vietnamese traditional food that cannot be lack on Lunar New Year is Pickled Scallion Heads Served with Dried Shrimp. Although it is just a simple, rustic dish, the preparing process for making this dish is quite meticulous and housewives need to prepare for this dish since mid-December
Pickled scallion heads served with dried shrimp always appear on the feast of Southern people on Tet holiday. In about 10 days, the scallion heads will ferment themselves and people will be able to take them out to enjoy. When eating this dish, the Southern people often served it with a little dried shrimp for tastier flavor.
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