What to Eat for a Prosperous Year of the Dragon
A short guide to what to eat and curated recipes :)
Tết, or Lunar New Year, falls on February 10th this year. It is one of the grandest celebrations in Việt Nam as we welcome a new year. During Tết, families typically take the first week off to celebrate together. For many, this festive period is the only opportunity to reunite with their loved ones. The preparation for Tết starts early!
A month prior, streets come alive with vibrant decorations. Along the sidewalks, vendors from the Mekong Delta arrange their stalls with an array of fresh flowers and fruits. It's not uncommon to witness families sun-drying củ kiệu and various vegetables in front of their house to prepare for traditiona pickles and fermentations.
Undoubtedly, a significant aspect of Tết is the feast. Here are some dishes for a lucky Year of the Dragon!
Flower vendors in Hồ Chí Minh City
What to Eat
Xôi Gấc - Gấc Sticky Rice
Gấc, a native Vietnamese fruit known for its striking red hue, often serves as a natural food coloring. Given the auspicious connotation of the color red, a plate with bright red gấc sticky rice holds an important spot in every Tết meal.
Canh Khổ Qua - Bittermelon Soup
A popular dish in Southern Việt Nam, this soup has a symbolic meaning. "Khổ qua" in Vietnamese means the passing of hardships and sufferings, embodying the collective hope for brighter days ahead.
Gà Luộc - Boiled Chicken
Across all three regions, boiled chicken takes center stage in ancestral offering meals. It is believed that boiled chicken sets the stage for a propitious and prosperous beginning. The chicken is later shared among family members or repurposed into different dishes like gỏi (salad) or noodle soups.
Left: Gấc sticky rice. Source: Vnexpress
Right: Bittermelon soup. Photo: Amanda Pham
Bánh Chưng - Steamed Rice Cake
According to ancient beliefs, the square-shaped bánh chưng, a traditional Vietnamese rice cake, symbolizes the earth. The Vietnamese, deeply rooted in a culture intertwined with rice cultivation and a reliance on nature, express gratitude to the heavens and earth for a year blessed with favorable weather and abundant rainfall, resulting in a plentiful harvest.
Dưa Hấu - Watermelon
With its verdant rind and succulent red flesh, watermelon is considered a harbinger of luck. This round, juicy, and sweet fruit embodies prosperity and overflowing vitality.
Left: A family preparing bánh chưng together
Right: Carvings on watermelon for Tết
What to Cook
Dưa chua - Vietnamese pickled mustard greens
In addition, we've curated some Tết recipes for you! Sourcing traditional ingredients may be challenging, so our recipes emphasize easily accessible ingredients and simplicity in preparation. We hope these dishes become a delightful part of your Lunar New Year celebration!
Thịt kho trứng - Braised pork belly with eggs
Dưa cải chua - Vietnamese pickled mustard greens
Mứt vỏ cam gừng - Candied orange peels with Sparrow Ginger
Bò kho khô - Dry braised beef shank