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The important cultural value of traditional Tet dishes

During Tet, Vietnam’s biggest holiday of the year, families from all around the world try to return home for a special reunion and to welcome in the Lunar New Year together. 

A huge part of the celebration is the traditional Tet dishes that are carefully prepared and cooked.

Main dishes include banh chung (square cake), boiled chicken, lean pork paste, spring rolls, pickled onions and bamboo soup cooked with pig’s trotters, among others.

A Tet tray of special dishes helps to express Vietnamese wishes for a Happy New Year. — Photo

“As well as helping express the best wishes of the family, the Tet tray still carries major significant spirituality: remembering and respecting ancestors and wishing them to always support their offspring with a Happy New Year, good health, good luck and safety,” said Hanoian elderly Truong Thi Hoi, 90.

“In the past, we have to prepare things for Tet, often one month in advance. The Tet tray includes four different bowls of soup such as boiled chicken broth cooked with perfumed mushroom, pork meatballs and four plates as cooked pork. These dishes are carefully decorated to help the entire family thrive with fullness the year-round,” said Hoi, adding that the tray also reflects the nation’s special culture. 

Banh chung (square cake) and dua hanh (pickled onions) are among the most important Tet dishes. — Photo

Hoi said her family place the most importance on the square cake as it is a tasty dish that should never be missing during Tet. The cake came into being thousands of years ago thanks to the 16th Hung King’s Lang Lieu Prince who wished to express his thankfulness to his father, the heaven and the earth.

To a Vietnamese soul, the cake is not only a sacred dish but also carries significance about the universe and human life, she said.

With nutritious ingredients such as sticky rice, green beans and pork, the cake supplies locals with energy and vitamins to deal with severe winter days during Tet, said Hoi.

Boiled chicken is also a popular dish nowadays for Tet and is also carefully prepared.

Spring rolls are a must-have Tet dish. — Photo

“I often order a couple of capons from Cao Bang which are raised naturally with maize. This makes the meat more fragrant, sweet and firm. We boil it to worship our ancestors at parties on New Year's Eve and the first day of the Lunar New Year,” said Hoi, noting that the technique of boiling the chicken is very important. It should be cooked from cold water over a light fire for half an hour to ensure that the chicken skin is not broken and its meat does not change from its natural colour.

Hội said she often decorated the chicken by holding a rose at its mouth. “According to legend, chicken represents integrity and strongness. In literature, it is described as a 'man' with good virtues such as being trained in fighting, writing, bravery, intelligence and kindness. 

Dua hanh or pickled onion is although a popular dish but it carries a special place in the tray because it is eaten with banh chung and other dishes, said Hoi.

“Thanks to the pickled onion, which is lightly salted, we all have a feeling of good appetite to enjoy our Tet dishes,” Hoi said, adding that it helps eater’s digestive system operates well.

Nguyen Thi Suong, who has been living in Germany for 30 years, told Việt Nam News that due to the pandemic, she could not return home. “When Tet comes, I miss my parents’ Tet tray, particularly the characteristics of banh chung eaten with dua hanh so much. The dish helps us to be more closely connected with our motherland.”

She said she has travelled to many countries but found no place in the world that is as special for Tet as Vietnam. 

Canh mang mong gio (bamboo soup cooked with pig's trotters) is a mainstay of any Tet table. — Photo  

Apart from these dishes, spring rolls, canh mang mong gio (bamboo soup with pig’s trotters) and che kho do xanh (sweeten green beans cooked with sugar) porridge are also among traditional dishes that have been existing for thousands of years in the country’s Tet tray.

Suong said that before the pandemic she would often return to her parents’ home in Hanoi during the Tet holiday. “I often help my mother to cook these dishes which all need special care and enthusiasm.”

As the festival is approaching, Suong wishes the pandemic to soon be over so that overseas Vietnamese, or Viet kieu, can go home to enjoy Tet with their traditional dishes and loved ones. 

Source: Vietnam News

Traditional Tet food offerings to ancestors

Traditional Tet food offerings to ancestors

During the Lunar New Year (Tet) festival, each ethnic group in Vietnam has its own culinary specialties that reflect the culture of their people and are used as offerings to worship their ancestors.

Traditional Tet food offerings to ancestors

Traditional Tet food offerings to ancestors

During the Lunar New Year (Tet) festival, each ethnic group in Vietnam has its own culinary specialties that reflect the culture of their people and are used as offerings to worship their ancestors.


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