In the previous post, you have learnt about three most popular Vietnamese New Year food in the North, how about in the Central? What do people there prepare for Lunar New Year?
- Banh Tet (Bánh Tét):
If Banh Chung is the most indispensable food on Lunar New Year in the North of Vietnam, it is Banh Tet that plays the role in Central Vietnam.
In some studies, people believe that Banh Tet is a different version of Banh Chung due to the process of southward expansion in the 17th century, which explains why their ingredients are very similar. Like Banh Chung, Banh Tet also represents the Heaven and the Earth and emphasizes the importance of rice in the life of Vietnamese people.
Besides cultural values, Banh Tet along with Banh Chung plays a key role in reuniting and enforcing the atmosphere of a family. Making Banh Tet or Banh Chung consumes a lot of time and labour, but it provides a precious opportunity for family members to gather and cook together.
However, there are some differences between Banh Chung and Banh Tet. While Banh Chung is wrapped in the square form with dong leaves, the appearance of Banh Tet is in the cylinder form with banana leaves as its outer coat. Also, unlike Banh Chung which is usually served with onion pickles in the North, Banh Tet goes hand in hand with vegetable pickles (dưa món) containing small pickles of carrots, papayas, cucumbers, turnips and onions soaked in vinegar and fish sauce. The above-mentioned factors contribute to create a subtle difference in favour between them.
One thing should be noticed is that Banh Tet is not given as a gift because its full name “Đòn bánh tét” literally means a cane used to punish bad children.
- Banh To (Bánh Tổ):
Banh To has long been a traditional Vietnamese dish in the Central on Lunar New Year, especially in Quang Nam. Legend has it that the cake was made by Au Co – Mother of Vietnamese for her children to bring along on their trips. Some also believe that Quang Nam people created the cake to support Quang Trung King in 18th century, so that the cake nowadays appear in the food tray of Vietnamese in Lunar New Year for commemorating the merits of Quang Trung King.
However, according to some studies, Banh To is another version of the cake 年糕 (nian gao) which was brought into Vietnam by Chinese between 16th and 17th century to express their respect for ancestors. The cake was named by Quang Nam people based on its form – Banh O (Bánh ổ) which gradually pronounced as Banh To. Interestingly, the word “Tổ” can be implied as Tổ tiên meaning ancestors.
The ingredients of Banh To is sticky rice, brown sugar, ginger and sesame. Embracing the cake is layers of banana leaves kept straight by a bamboo basket. The cake is made for several days in advance, the longer the better. The simplest way to try it is eating plain, but some people prefer to roast it over charcoal or fry it with peanuts, which creates waving attractive fragrance capturing the hearts of its customers.
- Nem chua (Fermented pork roll):
Nem Chua is one of the most popular food in Vietnam, especially in the Central where its presence is indispensable in a food tray of each family on New Year.
Nem Chua in the Central Vietnam usually has the taste of sourness and goes hand in hand with raw garlics, red chillies and black peppers. It it mainly made of pork meat and skin, and wrapped in different kinds of leaves depending on each area. For example, nem chua in Ninh Hoa wears gooseberry leaves, while people in Binh Dinh use guava leaves to wrap nem chua. It is the interior leaves that decide the taste of Nem Chua in each area. The outer leaves are usually banana leaves and its thickness depends on the fermentation degree of Nem Chua, but mostly only two layers of banana leaves laid criss-crossed.
The qualified Nem Chua must have dried surface, slightly pink color, firm meat and reasonably sourness. It can be eaten plain or served with wine in a new year party.
Those are the three most popular Vietnamese new year food in the Central. Stay stunned to discover what Southern Vietnamese have for their new year party.
Lan Ngoc – Minh Nguyen