Lunar New Year is the most important Vietnamese holiday as it is not only the time for people to celebrate a new year with happiness and hope, but also a special occasion for family members to reunite and enjoy delicious food together in a warm atmosphere of Tet holiday. However, different regions have their own ways of Tet celebration.
Unlike other regions, the New Year’s food tray of the Northern Vietnam is arranged in a significantly unique and sophisticated way, which is an ancient custom that has remained for a long time. In general, the old belief has it that the bowls and plates of dishes should be in either four or six so that fortune would come along with a new start of the year.
The three Tet food that is present in almost any food tray of Northern Vietnamese include Banh Chung, boiled rooster and pettitoes.
- Banh Chung (Bánh Chưng)
Banh Chung is a traditional Vietnamese rice cake with three main agricultural elements grabbed inside: glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork. It is usually served with onion pickles (dưa hành) in the Northern Vietnam.
Banh Chung plays an important role in Vietnamese cuisine that it appears in any special occasion (but not just Lunar New Year). While its square shape symbolizes the Earth, its ingredients represent the gratitude and hope for abundant crops and a stable life. Also, that Bánh Chưng is divided into nine equal squares implies the wish of ancient Vietnamese for equality in land division and social organization.
Besides, a pair of Banh Chung given as a gift in Lunar New Year has the meaning of wishing other people a life of abundance and fulfillment.
- Boiled Rooster
Another indispensable dishes in Lunar New Year is a boiled rooster with chopped lemon leaves, pepper and salt. In the Chinese philosophy, a rooster represents assertiveness and bravery. Additionally, in the ancient belief, every day of eight first days in Lunar New Year belongs to one animal and the first day belongs to rooster, which is among the reasons why a rooster is chosen to start a new year.
An interesting fact is that the Vietnamese special dish is usually decorated with a rose in its mouth. The rose is the representative of a rooster crowing to awake the sun to start the first day of a new year.
In the old time, under the influence of the Confucianism, people had to speak out their prayers so that by serving pettitoes to the God and ancestors, they could use the word 猪足 (猪 means pig, 足 means paw), the former of which is homonymous with 諸 (literally means everything,) and the latter has another meaning of “fullness”. As a whole, the dish is believed to bring the affluence and fulfillment to the family.
Those are the three most typical of Vietnamese new year food in the North. Vietnamese new year food in the South and Central will be featured soon.
How about in your country? What is new year food in your country? Share with us by leaving a comment below.