Tet Nguyen Dan, or Tet, is Vietnam’s most important and well-known holiday and celebration. On the Lunar calendar, a lunisolar calendar, it is the Vietnamese New Year, which marks the advent of spring.
Tet begins on the first day of the Lunar calendar’s first month (approximately late January or early February). The holiday will take place from February 10 to February 16 in 2021.
The 12 days of Tet are rooted in Vietnamese New Year customs, and they are replete with religious rituals, quality family time, and cleansing ceremonies aimed at washing away all the bad luck of the previous year and embracing the new one anew.
Tet customs include visiting someone’s house on the first day of the new year (xông nhà), ancestral worship, wishing New Year’s greetings, providing lucky money to children and the old.
Tet is also a time for pilgrimage and family get-togethers. Vietnamese people visit their families and temples during Tet, forgetting about their misfortunes from the previous year and praying for a brighter year ahead.
Tet foods in Vietnam are numerous and unique, and each one has its own importance. They show respect and reverence to ancestors while also providing hospitality to friends and visitors.
Tet meals are the most distinctive and diversified Vietnamese dishes that best define and reflect traditional Vietnamese cuisine.
Here are Eight traditional Vietnamese dishes that you must eat during Tet, the Vietnamese people’s most important festival.
1. Banh chung (Vietnamese Square Sticky rice cake)
Banh Chung’s square form is thought to symbolise the Earth and is connected with deep cosmic connotations. In addition to the steamed form, the Northerners like the fried version, which is made by frying Banh Chung in a nonstick frying pan with a little oil over medium heat. This square-shaped cake takes 6-8 hours to boil from start to end.
This cake has been a part of Vietnamese cuisine for a long time. Banh chung first appeared during the King Hung dynasty, according to tradition. This cake represents the ground, which expresses appreciation to the ancestors as well as the soil and sky. Furthermore, it highlights the significance of rice and nature in water rice cultivation.
In contrast to current quick cuisine, the preparation of banh chung takes time and involves the participation of multiple individuals. Family members frequently take turns keeping an eye on the fire overnight, telling each other tales from previous Tet.
Glutinous rice, pig meat, and mung beans are the main components, which are wrapped in a square of bamboo leaves to give the rice a green hue after boiling. The sticky rice must be excellent because it was soaked in water the day before. Rice cake is wrapped in a square shape and must be neither too tight nor too loose. The cake will next be cooked in wood for around 12 hours.
It is nutritious, has a unique flavor, and can be stored for a long time. If you eat banh chung with veggie pickles, you will have a wonderful experience.
2. Thit kho trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs).
Cubed pork is marinated in garlic, fish sauce, sugar, and coconut water. The eggs are utilized because they represent kindness and pleasure in this meal. Hard-boiled eggs are peeled. The pork is simmered in a saucepan with peeled hard-boiled eggs for a few hours before being served with vegetable pickles.
This Vietnamese thit kho dish is a low-and-slow braise with extremely tender and delicious pork, as well as hard-boiled eggs that have soaked up all of the spice. Because of how well it preserves after cooking, it’s usually eaten during the Lunar New Year.
It’s flavorful, salty, and somewhat sweet, with fish sauce and soy sauce as the primary seasonings, and it’s served with hard-boiled eggs. These are the flavors and memories of my youth, served on a big pile of steaming white rice with a side of pickled mustard greens.
3: Banh Tet (The Cylindrical Steamed Cake)
The components of sticky rice, seasoned pork, and mung bean are same in both Banh Tet and Banh Chung, but the form differs.
Banh Tet is cylindrical and may symbolize the Moon, whereas Banh Chung is square and represents the Earth. This is a popular dish in the south of Vietnam, and it takes a long time to boil. Generations of Southern families make and cook this unique cake on New Year’s Eve in order to enjoy delicious meals on the first day of the New Year.
The children will assist with cleaning the banana leaves and wrapping the parcels according to the adults’ directions, while the moms will be in charge of seasoning the pork, steaming the mung beans, making the sticky rice, and combining everything together. All of the activities help to generate warm and pleasant memories.
Banh Tet is sweet or salty depending on the filling, the sticky part will have a sweet taste.
4: Cu Kieu / Dua Muoi (The Pickles)
Small pickled leeks, pickled onion, and pickled cabbage (Dua Hanh & Kieu)
To make the pickles, ferment a variety of root vegetables and leeks – a great accompaniment to the braised pork and eggs in mild fish sauce. Pickled tiny leeks, in particular, are frequently made by housewives in the weeks leading up to the Tet holiday. Some families also like to buy pickled onions in plastic jars from the local market.
In any case, the pickles are so popular that virtually every household has at least one jar on hand. This type of traditional Vietnamese Lunar New Year meal aids in the digestion of other meat-heavy dishes.
5. Mut (The Candied Fruits)
This is where the authentic Vietnamese cuisine can be found. The candied fruits are quite popular in local markets, ensuring that every household may get kilos of candied delights such as coconut, sweet potato, tamarind, mango, and other tropical fruits.
During the Tet periods, brightly colored candied fruits are generally available on the tables to serve any guests that arrive. It is enjoyed by people of all ages. So, if you go to Vietnam for Tet and ask, “What do Vietnamese eat during Lunar New Year?” you should get candied fruits as an answer.
For the Tet festival, every Vietnamese household makes a box of Tet jam as a present to greet visitors during this unique week. Vietnamese jam, unlike Western jam, is mostly dry, consisting of dried fruits and seeds such as sunflower seeds and watermelon seeds.
Mut is frequently kept in specific boxes and placed on the living room table. Mut contains ginger, carrot, pumpkin, lotus seed, coconut, and sweet potato flavors in addition to certain seeds. It’s impossible to compare the pleasures of Mut and a cup of tea.
6: Nem Ran or Cha Gio (kinds of Vietnamese Spring Roll)
At Northern Vietnam, “Nem Ran” is a common daily meal item as well as an essential delicacy in traditional tables for honouring the ancestor. In a similar vein, “Cha Gio” is a well-known dish in Southern Vietnam. Both are fried on the outside to make them crispy, with beef, egg, mushroom, onion, shrimp, peanuts, and other ingredients on the inside.
Fresh veggies are commonly served with these spring rolls, which are wrapped in rice paper and dipped in fish sauce. Both “Nem Ran” and “Cha Gio” have an enticing presentation that may make your mouth wet. As is customary, the spring rolls should be served hot and crispy…
7: Boiled Chicken – The most popular food for Vietnamese Lunar New Year
Most shrines in Vietnam dedicated to the veneration of the ancestors include a spot for boiling chicken, a popular dish during the Tet celebrations.
Some households may choose to cut the chicken into little pieces and display them on the dish instead of using the prepared entire chicken for worship.
The meal should be garnished with Vietnamese coriander and served with a salt, pepper, and lemon juice sauce. The golden cooked chicken with flawless skin symbolizes a prosperous start to the New Year.
8: Yummy watermelon seed, sunflower seed…
The salt roasted cashew nut, lotus seed, watermelon seed, sunflower seed, sesame seed candy, and peanut candy are the most popular goods.
During the Tet holiday, you’ll be able to easily acquire these seeds, nuts, and candies in local markets.
If you have the opportunity to visit a Vietnamese household, you will almost certainly be welcomed to sample at least one of the seeds and nuts mentioned. Alternatively, you may purchase your favorite delectable cuisine and sample it for yourself. Chewing is a pleasurable sensation.
The top 8 traditional Tet meals listed above are worth trying to get a sense of how the Vietnamese celebrate their Lunar New Year.
Everyone is recommended to have some of the unique Tet cuisine on their tables throughout the festive times, regardless of how contemporary their family is. Apart from cleaning and adorning residences and sharing best wishes, one of the most important aspects of the Tet celebrations is to eat properly.
So, if you happen to be in Vietnam around Tet, an unique event when the entire country shares in the relaxed atmosphere, feel free to sample the Vietnamese traditional Tet food you come across. In fact, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year is a wonderful opportunity for international foodies to sample Tet specialties that are rarely available at other times.