Tet holiday is a special occasion for Vietnamese people. Since this is the most important holiday in the year, the food for this festival is prepared fussier than for the daily meal. Due to the differences in culture and climate from the north to the south of the country, the Tet holiday’s cuisine diversifies and presents each region’s specialities and cultural identity. Let’s take a look at the feast in three representative cities – Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh – to know more about the variety of Vietnamese cuisine for the Lunar New Year.
A year-end feast is an important event for all Vietnamese families. It is because all the family members will reunite after the whole working year, tell everyone their stories of the past year, and enjoy the special and delicious food for the event. In Vietnam, instead of using the word “celebrate” as in the Western culture for this holiday, we normally say “Ăn Tết” (in the raw translation, it means “Eat Tet”). Hence, this point shows how important the gastronomic parts are for the Vietnamese celebration of the Tet Holiday or Lunar New Year.
The terrain of Vietnam stretches vertically, so the climate and local agricultural products in each region are significantly from the others. As a result, they become important factors to make the Vietnamese food map become so localized and diverse. Food in Vietnamese culture is not simply something to eat but also represents spirit, love, and pride. In my point of view, for foreign tourists, to understand such a complicated set of values as for Tet holiday in Vietnam, food is the easiest way to approach both physically and emotionally.
SOPHISTICATED VIETNAMESE CUISINE FOR LUNAR NEW YEAR IN HANOI
The capital city – Hanoi is where the cultural quintessence and historical values centralize and condense. These essences are present in all aspects of life, especially in the gastronomic culture. You can see it clearly through the daily meal of Hanoian, street food, or restaurants. However, the best example of sophistication in Hanoian cuisine is the year-end feast.
History and setting
There are different structures and settings for this extraordinary feast. However, I would like to introduce the most complex, fussed, and sophisticated version of the year-end feast which includes sixteen different dishes. It is called the “eight bowls and eight dishes” setting due to the way to present the dishes on the tray.
Back in time, this setting is only for the elite class of Hanoian. Although the quantity of the dishes is large, each served course’s size is small. The presentation style comes from the Hanoian cultural norm of moderation and delicacy.
The main food of Hanoi’s Cuisine
The souls of the feast are Banh Chung (a green cake which is made from sticky rice, mung bean, and salty pork), spring rolls, boiled chicken, and frozen meat. Besides, there are five different types of soup (bamboo shoots, maw, chicken noodle glass, dried squid, and mushroom with pork), red sticky rice, stir-fried vegetable, salted onion, vegetable pudding, gio lua (Vietnamese sausage), Vietnamese salad, and mung bean pudding.
The essence of the feast in Hanoi is the balance between ingredients, display, and colors. You will never feel fed up when trying the food for Tet Holiday in Hanoi thanks to the harmonization between dishes and the skillful cooking method of Hanoians.
ROYAL CUISINE IN HUE CITY
As the representative for the middle region of Vietnam, Hue’s cuisine stands out for remained characteristics of the food from the cooking methods to the dishes ‘presentation. In general, in a traditional feast in Hue, there are twenty-one different dishes in general.
Different from the feast in Hanoi, the main cake for Hue is Banh Tet. Banh Tet has the same ingredients used for Banh Chung in the north. However, instead of having a square shape, Banh Tet has a cylinder shape. In addition, instead of cutting into eight pieces like Banh Chung when serving, people in Hue normally cut Banh Tet into small round-shape pieces.
Alongside Banh Tet, there are various types of dishes of meat and seafood thanks to the diverse supply sources. Some typical dishes include Nem Chua (different from the version in the north, this dish serves with garlic and chilly), Che, boiled pork, sweet and sour prawn paste, fresh spring roll, grilled grounded beef, etc. The serving size of each dish is also small to keep the tradition from the era of the Nguyen dynasty in the past. Moreover, through the presentation style, it illustrates the meticulousness of the cuisine in Hue.
RUSTIC VIETNAMESE CUISINE IN HO CHI MINH CITY
In the south side of Vietnam, the cuisine has different characteristics compared to Hanoi and Hue. As the representative for the south side, Ho Chi Minh city’s feast menu has fewer dishes but is still, flavorful and meaningful.
Southern gastronomy and the comparison to the western area
The dish that cannot miss when having the year-end feast in Ho Chi Minh City is stewed pork with duck egg. The pork is cut into a cube shape and slow-cooked with the round and white duck egg in the coconut water and milk until caramelized. The dish tastes best when served with white rice and pickles.
Besides, bitter zucchini soup is also the representative dish for the feast in Ho Chi Minh city. People believe that the bitter taste of zucchini represents the difficulties of the past year, and by eating it, you can leave the hardness behind and welcome the new lucks to come in the new year. It also represents through the Vietnamese name of bitter zucchini – “khổ qua”, which means passing the arduousness.
Also, similar to Hue, Banh Tet is the main cake for the feast in Ho Chi Minh. However, in some cities in the South, Banh Tet has the sweet version (without meat and sweetening the mung bean) along with the savory one. Additionally, as the tradition of worshipping the ancestors with the local agricultural specialities in some cities in the south of Vietnam, some additional dishes can appear, such as grilled snakehead fish (An Giang and An Giang), steamed chicken with pomelo (Dong Nai), or sour noodle with crab (Ca Mau).
SHORT CONCLUSION: DIVERSE VIETNAMESE CUISINE
Through the food journey across the country, we can see the large degree of diversity of Vietnamese cuisine for the Tet Holiday. If you want to explore this unique and fascinating travel experience, check out the option “Culinary tour” from AVT for the best food tour ever. Or, if you prefer to customize your gastronomic journey, don’t worry, AVT will help you right the way with the best trip design. Just let us know through the “Build Your Own Trip” button, and your dream trip is ready for you to explore.
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