Six festival staples for 'physical, spiritual cleansing'

By Di Vy   June 6, 2019 | 08:22 pm PT
Six dishes step up as Vietnam celebrates Tet Doan Ngo on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
Six festival staples for physical, spiritual cleansing

Banh u la tre (pyramid-shaped cake wrapped in bamboo leaves)

Vietnamese see Tet Doan Ngo, also known as the pest killing festival which falls on June 7 this year, as a time for physical and spiritual cleansing.

Banh u la tre has a pale yellow glazed cover after being cooked for about four hours. It has a sweet filling made of mung bean paste that has brown ash color. Many places in Saigon include pieces of winter melon jam to add flavor.

A delicious banh u la tre has a gentle sweetness and a gooey texture. A cake costs VND3,000-6,000 ($0.13-0.26).

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Banh gai (gai leaf cake)

Originated in the Red River Delta, this cake is usually shaped square and wrapped with gai or ramie leaves that add a distinct aroma. It is a blackened sticky rice cake with a green bean paste filling. A cake costs VND7,000 ($0.26).

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Che (Vietnamese sweet soup)

Many people buy different types of che, sweet dessert, for worshipping ancestors during this festival. One of them is che ke or sweet dessert made with millet seeds. Once cooked, the millet is soft and has a sweet taste which is complimented with sweet ginger water.

The dessert is quite famous in Hue where it is usually served with sesame rice paper. Each cup (or bag) costs VND10,000 ($0.43).

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Duck meat

It is not as popular as the cakes mentioned above, but duck meat is an indispensable dish for people in the central region on this occasion. Vietnamese people believe duck meat is a Yin food that helps the body cool off during the festival.

In Saigon, food lovers can try duck porridge at the Co Hop Restaurant in District 4 or Lam in District 10, or have some vermicelli with duck at the Ban Co wet market in District 3.

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Banh khuc (sticky rice with green bean paste and pork)

For the Nung ethnic minority people in the northern province of Lao Cai, banh khuc is an important dish to enjoy on Tet Doan Ngo. Unlike other kinds of sticky rice, this dish has green bean paste added to it, pounded with sliced pork and marinated with spices, including pepper. Many shops add ground peanuts for extra flavor and texture.

This cake costs VND15,000 ($0.64). The way this cake is processed and flavored in Saigon is different from the north. Try this dish at Co Lieng in Phu Nhuan District, Nam Bo Co Yen in District 1, or the famous 40-year-old street food venue near Hoang Hoa Tham High School in Binh Thanh District.

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Com ruou nep (rice wine dessert)

This fermented rice dessert is another festival staple believed to kill worms and diseases inside the body. To make this dish, glutinous rice with golden brown color is usually chosen. After fermentation, the grains will have a soft and chewy texture.

Foodies can find this dish inside Alley 107 on Pham Van Hai Street in Tan Binh District, Ai Nhu Restaurant, in District 6, and Tuyen Le shop in Tan Binh District.

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