Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vietnamese New Year - Part 1

My wonderful sis-in-law is back with some great ideas!

Need some New Year's party ideas?

What?! New Year!? That's right. Vietnamese New Year, to be exact. Many Americans know it as Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year, but to the Vietnamese it is simply known as "Tet" and I have always called it Vietnamese New Year to my non-Vietnamese speaking friends and family.

This year, Vietnamese New Year is on February 3rd. Yes, that's only a few days away! So if you're going to be celebrating with family and friends to ring in the Vietnamese Year of the Cat (Year of the Rabbit
if you're Chinese), it's time to break out the red and gold plates, napkins, ribbons, and banners! You'll also want to be sure to have some traditional festive foods and decorations ready.

One of the most important aspects of the New Year table is the Five Fruit Tray (Mam Ngu Qua). Fresh fruits are arranged on decorative trays as the centerpiece of the Tet table. They represent the five basic elements -- metal, wood, water, fire, and soil. Fruits will vary but are always a colorful assembly. You will see green or yellow bananas, persimmons, oranges, apples, mangos, pomelos, figs, kumquats, coconuts, peaches, melons, and so many other kinds of fruits. Commonly, fresh kumquat leaves adorn the tray, also.
You can't have a Tet celebration without the traditional sticky rice cakes, Banh Chung and Banh Tet, so be sure to stock up next time you're at the asian market... or you can attempt to make your own. I found this cute story and good recipe over at Serious Eats:
Traditional dry candied fruits and vegetables, called Mut Tet, are usually offered only during Tet, so it's no surprise that kids love this time of year. A fancy tray of Mut Tet and green tea are a staple in the home to greet visitors during the three days of Tet.  Although I don't have a specific recipe for you, you can read more about this sweet New Year’s treat at Balo Nguoc:
imageMy all-time favorite indulgence any time of year, Crispy Pork Belly (Thit Heo Quay,) is ALWAYS on the menu during Tet, so I'd highly recommend this recipe from Andrea Nguyen at Viet World Kitchen:
In our family, any festive gathering is not complete without Vietnamese Pork Eggrolls (Cha Gio), so you can bet that you'll find them on our New Year's table. Here’s a great recipe from Wandering Chopsticks:

To properly present a Tet food table, you'll need traditional side dishes to go with your main dishes. Luckily, this Pickled Carrot and Daikon (Do Chua) recipe from Pham Fatale and this Pickled Mustard Greens (Cai Chua) recipe from Playing with My Food will have you covered:
imageLastly, my mom never forgot to have up the Hoa Mai tree (I don't know if there is an English common name for this plant) with its bright yellow blossoms this time of year. Another traditional blossom is the vibrant pink peach blossom (Hoa Dao). These are by far my favorite of New Year's decor. So colorful, fragrant, and pretty!
(Image source one, two and three)

I hope this gets you inspired to start planning and decorating to welcome the Year of the Cat!  I'll be back in a future post to wish you a Happy New Year and share a few more traditions, memories, and customs.


Thanks for sharing this great information, T! Isn’t she the best?  Make sure to come back to find out more next week!  Hope you all have a Happy New Year!!



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