Every country has different traditions and holidays, but when it comes to holidays, we all have things in common. We celebrate and we eat. In this blog, I am going to introduce you the list of must-have Vietnamese dishes during the Tet holiday or Vietnamese New Year holiday.
Vietnamese Sticky Rice cake – “Banh Chung” and “Banh Day”
Vietnamese sticky rice cake has been on of the list of Tet holiday’s food for thousand years. It is obviously the most traditional and the most important dish to have in every single meal during Vietnamese New Year holidays. There are 2 types of Vietnamese sticky rice cake, the square sticky rice cake, or so called “Banh Chung” in Vietnam, and the round one is called “Banh Day.” The origin of Vietnamese sticky rice cake can be traced all the way to the Hong Bang dynasty, the first dynasty of Vietnam. It stated that the square stick rice cake symbolized the Earth, and that the round one stood for the Sun. Though, nowadays, we rarely see “Banh Day” during the Tet holidays. Only “Banh Chung” stands the test of time and keeps its tradition. “Banh Chung” is made of green beans, fatty pork, and stick rice layers wrapped over by another layer of banana leaves, and must be boiled for 12 hours before served.
Vietnamese Pork Sausage – “Gio”
Vietnamese sausage appears in almost every single Vietnamese traditional events and parties, especially during Tet holiday and Vietnamese wedding receptions. Pork Sausage is made of lean pork, potato starch, ground black pepper and Vietnamese fish sauce. The pork has to be pounded until it becomes pasty, then it will be mixed with the right amount of potato starch, ground black pepper and fish sauce. At the end, the mixture is wrapped tightly within couple layers of banana leaves (Yes, Vietnamese like to wrap stuff with banana leaves, because they bring in the color). To cook Vietnamese pork sausage properly, you need to vertically boil it in deep water.
Vietnamese Red Sticky Rice – “Xoi Gac”
During the Tet holiday, red is the most dominant color because it stands for luck in Vietnamese culture. Therefore, wherever you go and what ever you do, there will always be something red in it, and food is not an exception. Vietnamese red sticky rice brings a little luck into Vietnamese family’s holiday meals. Vietnamese red sticky rice is called “Xoi Gac” in Vietnam. “Xoi” means sticky rice, and “Gac” is known as baby jack fruit or sweet gourd, which bring the red color to the dish. For that is being said, “Xoi Gac” is made of Vietnamese white sticky rice and the juice of baby jack fruit, with a little bit of sugar at the end to give the dish a hint of sweetness. “Xoi Gac’ also appears at weddings as a wish of luck for the newly wed couples. Vietnamese moms will serve their children this dish before any big exams.
As far as I know, a Vietnamese traditional occasion can only call itself Vietnamese traditional if it has boiled chicken in the meal. By the way, boiled chicken is my most favorite Vietnamese traditional dish. (: For me what makes Vietnamese boiled chicken the best is the chicken. It sounds obvious, but not really. To have the best boiled chicken, instead of using human-raised chicken, we need to use the garden chickens or what I would like to call the “athlete chickens,” which were raised to be wild chickens. With all of the exercise, its meat will be a little tougher, chewier, and definitely tastier. After preparing the meat, the whole chicken will be gently poached until done. Normally, people will keep the broth to make soup later and wait for the chicken to cool up. The chicken then will be cut up and ready for plating. At the end, we would like sprinkle the dish with sliced lemon leaves to add more flavor. Vietnamese people usually have boiled chicken with chili lemon salt, or sometimes with garlic soy sauce.
Candied Fruit – “Mut”
New Year holiday is the occasion of visiting your loved ones. Everyone can easily be visited by their families and friends several times a day, so it is polite to always have some light snacks to serve the guests during their visit. When other snack food can be replaced by some other substitutes, candied fruits are the must-to-have snacks on your living room coffee table. Due to the fact that Vietnam is a tropical country, and candied fruits are made of different types of fruit, they can be very colorful and fun to eat, especially for kids. Candied fruits are normal served on a rotatable dish.