Tet, or Tet Nguyen Dan to give the festival its full name, is the most important festival in the Vietnamese calendar. Tet is celebrated on the first day in the Lunar calendar. The festival usually lasts up to seven days in late January or early February.
While it may not be as commonly known as the Chinese New Year, this festival is celebrated by millions every year. It’s a time to show appreciation to ancestors and spending time with family is very important.
Like all great festivals there are many foods that have a significance at this time of year, which is the most fun of any holiday. Here are 23 delicious foods you will find in many Vietnamese homes during Tet.
Food to Eat For Tet
Also known as banh tet because of its association with the holiday, this rice cake is made with sticky rice, pork and mung beans. Banh Chung is prepared before an event. It’s then wrapped in banana leaves and presented as a package during the festival.
Also known as red sticky rice, the distinctive red color of this dish is very important during the festival as it symbolizes good fortune and happiness. Xoi Gac is made by cooking sticky rice and combining it with baby jackfruit flesh. Authentic xoi gac never uses food coloring. Cooks place jackfruit seeds on top to show that the colour is from the fruit.
Chicken plays an important role in the festival and is used in meals where the ancestors are remembered. Chicken is steamed or boiled and the traditional way to serve it is sliced or chopped.
Welcoming visitors to your home is an important part of the Tet festival. Guests are offered a selection of dried fruits and nuts as a traditional snack that often includes pineapple, coconut, star fruit and even seeds and candied ginger.
Similar to the spring rolls found in China, these tasty treats are usually made with ground pork, mushrooms and chopped carrots. Common in southern Vietnam, the filling is wrapped in a sheet of rice paper and deep fried.
Gio nac can be made with many types of meat, but is usually made with pork or beef. Meat is finely mashed, then wrapped in a banana leaf to be boiled. This leaves a smooth white cake which is cut into slices.
This tasty treat is presented to guests as snacks during the Tet festival. Watermelon seeds are toasted and then split, with both black and red varieties available.
Another common snack that can also be served with meals. Dua hanh are small pickled shallots that have been cured with chili, ginger and fish sauce before being stored in rice vinegar.
Thit Kho Nuoc Dua
This delicious dish includes pork meat that is marinated and braised. It is then cooked with coconut water and eggs, and the combination makes for a lovely stew.
Thit Heo Ngam Mam
Tet is all about spending time with family, and that includes preparing meals. Thit heo ngam mam are rolls of meat soaked in fish sauce with chopped vegetables and herbs. It is very common for children to make this with their parents during the festival.
Mam Ngu Qua
One of the more significant foods during the Tet festival, although it isn’t one offered to house guests. A tray of five fruits is placed on the altar as a sign of respect and gratitude to the family’s ancestors. An ornamental piece that can be quite elaborate, the fruits vary depending on what region you are in often includes more than five fruits.
A fermented sausage that is spicy, sweet and sour. It’s usually served cubed with garlic and chili on top and served as a part of the main meal during the Tet festival.
Canh Mang Luoi Heo
This soup is made with bamboo shoots and a variety of other vegetables, which are then combined with pork and softened bamboo to make a hearty soup.
A salad that provides a dash of color and texture to a festival meal. This sweet and sour salad can be served with or without meat, and is an essential on any Tet dinner table.
One of the most important parts of the Vietnamese culture is to use all parts of the meat. This dish uses the meat of the pig’s head which is finely diced and wrapped in a banana leaf before being steamed or boiled.
This northern dish makes good use of the traditional cold weather during the festival period. Thit dong is a variety of chopped cooked meat which is then frozen outdoors, and then served with a pickled onion.
These fruits have a significance during the festival, with the entire plant used to represent the family tree. The most symmetrical fruits and leaves are chosen for displays.
Thit Bo Kho Que
Thia bo kho que is a warming dish originates in the north of the country. Beef is marinated in garlic juice and salt, and then cooked with soy sauce and cinnamon. It’s traditionally served with boiled carrots.
Bo Kho Mat Mia
Beef is one of the most popular meats to use in Central Vietnam during the festival, Bo kho mat mia is made by braising the beef with molasses, ginger, lemongrass and cinnamon to make it tender.
A variety of pickle, this is made with the distinctive Chinese onion bulbs, which are common in the markets of the country. It’s so common that you’ll often see the onion roots hung out to dry before the festival.
Canh Kho Qua Don Thit
Bitter melon is one of the fruits that is more common in asian countries than it is in the west. This is a significant dish for spirituality, where the bitter melon is stuffed with diced pork and herbs.
Another common pickle eaten during the Tet festival. Dua hanh ia known as welsh onions in English; however, the plant is actually native to Asia rather than Wales.
Very similar to the gio cha rolls that are eaten in the south of the country, Nem Ran are eaten across Northern Vietnam during Tet. These rice paper rolls wrap ground meat and diced vegetables.
Canh Bong Thap Cam
Another prominent soup during Tet. Canh bong thap cam is made with carrots and peas, combined with dried pig skin and the shrimp.
Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below!