Enter the Dragon

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Happy New Year!

 

Monday (Jan. 23) kicked off the first day of the Vietnamese New Year. If you haven’t realized it yet, it’s the Year of the Dragon!

Some people refer to it as the Chinese New Year, but many other Asian cultures observe this holiday too. In Vietnamese culture, it’s called Tet. Celebrations last for 3 days, and it is THE most important holiday of the year. While growing up, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas were just an average day in my parents’ house.

There are many traditions associated with Tet, but one of the best parts is all the great food that’s being cooked and eaten. Like Thanksgiving, some people spend days making preparations for the festivities that are to come. Since my family’s back in Texas, one of my friends invited me to her house in Queens to celebrate with her and her family on New Year’s Eve. As to be expected, her mom was cooking up a storm.

But, wait! There’s more…

One of the traditional foods people eat during Tet is called banh tet. Although the spelling of the dish is the same as the holiday, their pronunciations are different due to the accents applied to the vowels (not included here) in the Vietnamese language.

Banh tet is a savory dish wrapped in banana leaves. It comes in the shape of a cylinder (Southern Vietnamese) or square (Northern Vietnamese). Since my family’s from the south, we get the cylindrical ones. There are 3 layers: the outer layer is glutinous rice; the next layer is mung bean, and the center is a small piece of fatty pork.

It’s one of my favorite foods to eat during Tet, and it’s ONLY available during this time of year. Otherwise, I’d have to wait a whole year to get my hands on some. You can eat banh tet as it is, at room temperature or hot, but I like mine pan-fried. That way, they’re crispy on the outside, but still soft and chewy on the inside.

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