In addition to the traditional cultural values, the Lunar New Year, or Tet, also boasts a culinary culture with distinctive flavors and appealing visual dishes. Despite the modern lifestyle bringing about some changes to Tet, traditional dishes remain essential for the Tet feast. Let Deluxe Group Tours take you through the list of indispensable traditional foods for Tet.
Chung cakes and Tet cakes are considered the soul of Tet and are types of cakes with a long history in Vietnam’s culinary culture.
In the northern regions, banh chung is typically wrapped in a square shape, symbolizing the harmonious unity of heaven and earth, and offered as a tribute to ancestors during the Tet holiday and the commemoration of the Hung Kings’ death anniversary. In the Central and Southern regions, locals prefer displaying Tet cakes during Tet, which are cylindrical-shaped cakes. The cake, wrapped in a long cylinder, stands for the enveloping care of a mother and carries strong family affection.
The ingredients to make these cakes are similar, consisting of sticky rice, pork, and mung beans wrapped in dong or banana leaves. In addition to the traditional savory filling, nowadays, there are also sweet and vegetarian fillings available to meet various preferences.
Especially the cakes need to be continuously boiled for 8-12 hours. Therefore, the family members sitting and gathering to pack and cook the cake pot in the days leading up to Tet became more meaningful than ever.
On a traditional Tet platter, besides the main dishes, a plate of pickled onions or pickled small leeks cannot be missed.
The image of grandmothers and mothers peeling each bundle of onions and small leeks to marinate in fish sauce and salt is a sign that Tet is approaching. The pickled onions will have a soft, white appearance, a mildly sour taste, a crisp texture, and no pungent smell.
This is a rustic dish that is especially suitable for relieving satiation after indulging in a festive feast on the Tet holiday. In addition, these picked dishes also help stimulate digestion, effectively reducing bloating. You can pair them with oily dishes in your Tet meals.
When it comes to Tet dishes, almost all Vietnamese fondly recall the abundant trays of Tet candied fruits every time they visit to extend Tet wishes to relatives and friends. Traditional Tet candied fruits are not only delicious snacks but also carry the significance of reunion, togetherness, and happiness every Tet season.
Tet candied fruits are often made from various dried tubers and fruits, offering a rich variety of flavors and colors. Among them, the most popular ones include coconut candied fruits, ginger candied fruits, tomato candied fruits, lotus seed candied fruits, etc.
The joy of the traditional Tet holiday lies in the moment of sipping hot tea, savoring the sweet, chewy, and crunchy texture of various candied fruits and chatting with beloved family members.
Jellied meat is one of the distinctive dishes enjoyed during Tet by the locals in the northern region. Jellied meat is typically made from pork belly, chicken, or pig skin, which is simmered until fully cooked. After cooking, the pot of jellied meat is placed outside and covered tightly to absorb the cold air from nature.
Jellied meat has a pale color and when it freezes, it develops a smooth white layer of fat on the surface. When eating, you will experience the tenderness, and richness of the meat, the crispness of the wood ear fungus, and the refreshing taste of agar-agar, making it an irresistibly enticing dish during Tet.
If the traditional Tet dish in the north is jellied meat, in the south, it is caramelized pork and eggs. Caramelized pork and eggs not only boast delicious flavors but also stand out as a convenient dish, carrying the taste of the homeland.
Pork belly and whole chicken or duck eggs are simmered together in rich coconut water and seasoned with sesame oil, sugar, fish sauce, and various spices. Each piece of tender, fragrant pork combines with the rich, creamy flavor of the eggs, creating a perfect dish to enjoy with hot rice.
If you’re afraid of getting satiation of it, pickled onion or pickled small leeks can be a suitable side dish. Vietnamese families often cook a large pot of this meat to savor gradually during the Tet holiday or for daily meals.
From the ancestral altar offerings to the centerpiece of the Tet platter, it is easy to come across beautifully arranged plates of Vietnamese pork roll, either sliced into rounds or intricately carved. This is not only one of the culinary highlights of Vietnam but also carries the meaning of wishing for a warm and prosperous family in the upcoming year.
Vietnamese pork roll comes in various shapes and ingredients, such as steamed pork sausage, beef bologna, veal sausage, Vietnamese head cheese, etc. The tender and flavorful sausage meat is wrapped in banana leaves and can be enjoyed directly or used as an ingredient in other dishes when cut into pieces.
The flavor of Vietnamese pork rolls is frugal, easy to eat, and suitable for inviting guests on many special occasions.
Fermented pork rolls are an indispensable dish for the Vietnamese during Tet. Fermented pork rolls from each region bring their distinct flavor, with Thanh Hoa fermented pork rolls being the most famous.
This specialty dish is prepared by finely grinding pork meat, seasoning it with spices, and mixing it with powdered grilled rice. The outer layer of fermenter pork rolls is lined with pieces of garlic, chili, and guava leaves. Finally, it is wrapped in a thick layer of banana leaves and plastic wrap before fermenting.
In the northern regions, fermented pork rolls are often small and cylindrical, with thin skin and a peppery aroma, and can be eaten raw, dipped in chili sauce. In the central region, fermented pork rolls are usually wrapped in a square shape and served with sweet and sour fish sauce. In the South, nem chua is often made into Vietnamese salads.
Enjoying the crispy and tangy nem chua during the Tet holiday is a unique traditional food experience in Vietnam.
In cakes or Co cakes were once a type of cake offered to the kings during the Nguyen Dynasty and have become a traditional food for Tet in the ancient capital of Hue. In cakes carry the beauty of traditional culinary art and contain many meaningful wishes.
Despite their simple and pure white appearance, making these cakes is fussy and meticulous. The cake is made from simple ingredients, including glutinous rice flour, tapioca starch, mung beans, and sugar. It is then pressed into a round mold and engraved with Chinese characters for prosperity, fortune, and longevity on the surface of the cake.
This is also a suitable dish to display on the ancestral altar and to offer to guests with its unique layers of colorful rice paper wrapping.
On the ancestral altar or at the significant platter in Vietnamese households, a whole boiled chicken is an indispensable dish. The boiled chicken skin is shining yellow, symbolizing a prosperous, warm, and successful new year, making it a must-have traditional food for Tet.
Vietnamese household chicken is boiled until tender, with the skin becoming smooth and shiny, then it is finely chopped and neatly arranged on a plate. This simple dish requires professional cooking and the use of knives to preserve the deliciousness of the chicken meat. When eating, the chicken meat is dipped in a mixture of salt and pepper, along with fragrant lime leaves, completing a perfect Tet platter.
When participating in the traditional culinary experience of Vietnamese Tet, I thoroughly enjoyed a delightful gastronomic journey. Even though these dishes may seem simple, they conceal intricate processes, from delicate cooking techniques to visually appealing presentations. The Vietnamese traditional food for Tet treated me to a visually stunning culinary feast. This is a worthwhile journey to experience, delving not only into the traditional food for Tet of the Vietnamese people but also immersing myself in the cultures and customs of the Tet holiday.