Tết holiday, Vietnamese most anticipated and important holiday of all, occurs differently every year around the end of January and beginning of February. Alongside with the excitement that it gives, Tết holiday is also a special occasion for everyone in one family get together and celebrate. However, no holiday or party can be missing out on the food; said holiday is also no exceptional. There are many dishes in Vietnamese cuisine that made especially for this occasion; from sweets to savories, from appetizers to main courses, or even cakes for that matter.
That being said, what is the most traditional, most iconic food just for Vietnamese Lunar New Year? In this article, let’s, together, go through top 5 dishes you should not miss during Tết holiday.
1. Bánh Chưng, bánh Tét
It wouldn’t be Tet holiday without Bánh Chưng or Bánh Tét. In the North, people usually make Bánh Chưng as an offering for their ancestors as well as a must-have of the holiday. The Southern people of Vietnam however, will make Bánh Tét. Now, you may ask; what is the difference between those two?
The answer is aside from the shape (Bánh Chưng is shaped as a square, whereas Bánh Tét is shaped as a cylinder) they’re basically the same. Both are made of sticky rice, green beans paste, high-fat pork belly and others replaceable ingredients, wrapped outside with green leaves, most popular, banana leaves. They both take a very long time to cook to perfection and they are both eaten with “dưa món”, a pickled side dish that made from various vegetables: carrots, turnips, scallions, etc.
2. Thịt đông
In Vietnamese cuisine, especially during Tết holiday, there is a very unique dish called “thịt đông”, which is translated as “frozen meat”. Now, this dish is not exactly frozen like its name, but rather get said name because they’re usually served in the breezing springs days, and is eaten when is slightly cold.
This special dish is made from pork, mushrooms, onions, seasonings, eggs, vegetables and a secret ingredient: pork skin.
After being rinsed, pork is cut to bite-size pieces and simmered with onions and mushroom at low heat until tender, pork skin is added and the fat from the skin is what make this dish gelatinized. After long hours of cooking, the meat and its broth are put into bowls and kept inside the fridge (cooling compartment). When being served, take it out upside down into a serving dish, together with a plate of pickled GaiChoy and there you have completed it – the Vietnamese “thịt đông.”
3. Thịt kho hột vịt
“Thịt kho hột vịt” is another must-have in Tết holiday. It’s a Vietnamese pork stew with duck eggs that has its signature flavor and color from fish sauce, caramel sugar, vegetables and other native seasonings. Especially, southern people usually use coconut milk to make this dish even more flavorful. The process of making the pork stew take up a long time and is being reheated daily to keep it fresh, resulting in the tenderness of the meat, darken color and intense flavor through days.
The meaning behind this dish is when Tết holiday comes, businesses are usually close and hence it can be very difficult for the people to find food during the Tet week. Therefore, they need a special dish that has great flavor and can hold up the freshness for a long time. That’s why the pork stew with duck eggs was born.
4. Thịt heo ngâm mắm
This dish comes from the Central of Vietnam. The dish includes pork pickled with fish sauce, peppers, lemon grass, onions, and a little bit of vinegar.
Pork after being cut to medium squares or keep whole (depend on the maker’s preference) and rinsed thoroughly, is tied tightly with cooking strings and seasoned with manifold spices and vegetables.
Then the pork is being simmered in water or broth until tender, much like regular pork stew. The fish sauce and vinegar are lightly prepared on the side and after the pork is ready, all of them are put together for the pickling process.
The pork is commonly served in thin slices, together with others traditional side dishes. “Thịt heo ngâm mắm” is usually eaten in spring roll style or with rice noodles
5. Bánh mứt Tết
Unlike the other dishes mentioned above, “bánh mứt tết” is not a savory dish but many kinds of sweets that are serve as a snack when welcoming guests or just for munching.
“Bánh mứt Tết” isn’t any particular dish, but a general name for Tết sweet snacks. The snack can be various from dry seeds; watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. to dried candied or sugar coated fruits like; dried coconut candy, ginger candy, orange jest sugar coated, and many more.
These sweets are not hard to find as they’re sold everywhere weeks prior to Tết holidays. With different kinds and various fruits, “bánh mứt Tết” is something cannot be omitted when Tết comes.
Vietnamese cuisine is a magnificent world; hence there are so many more dishes out there that cannot be missed in Vietnamese most important holiday, Tet! There is also a wide range of transformation among different regions. The only way for you to enjoy them is to get out there, and eat as much as you can. When you savor the foods, the true Vietnamese culture will through that, comes to you.
By Tiger Team