Families feast on bizarre menu to kill belly pests

By Hoang Hoang, Van Pham   June 9, 2016 | 05:15 am PT
Families feast on bizarre menu to kill belly pests
Traditional offerings on "Tet Doan Ngo". Photo by Nguyen Ngoc An
Today, throughout Vietnam, the prevailing image was fermented rice and lychees as the country celebrated ‘Tet Doan Ngo’: the national pest killing day.

A long long time ago, people risked starvation as swarms of pests threatened to wipe out their crops. Farmers could not farm and people starved. Then appeared a man named Doi Truan. He told people to set up simple altars with ‘tro’ cake, sour fruits, fermented sticky rice and exercise in front of their houses. Magically, the pests disappeared and people once again were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. As quickly as he appeared, Doi Truan vanished into thin air, but in a tribute to him, people named the day "Tet Doan Ngo", or Pest Killing Day.

Falling on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of the year, "Tet Doan Ngo" is a long standing tradition, and while the pests may have gone, it's still an excuse for families to get together.

During "Tet Doan Ngo", Vietnamese eat the same food the legend says drove the pests away.


Sour fruit are said to hold mystical powers that eradicate pests, and fortunately for those who wish to wield this weapon, lychees are in season.

Fermented rice

Before "Tet Doan Ngo", people prepare sticky rice with yeast then wait for the fermentation process to do the job. When it's ready, the rice carries a hefty kick with it.

'Tro' cake with sugarcane syrup

This cake is an example of bizarre authentic Vietnamese cuisine. The main ingredient is water decanted from the ashes of straw mixed with sticky rice. After it's boiled, the cake turns a brownish color with a softly chewy texture that goes best with sugarcane syrup.


In Vietnam, ducks are considered to be at their tastiest at this time of year... no-one knows why. Presumably, they, after a long, cold winter and spring, they've plumped up. It is very common to see duck dishes during "Tet Doan Ngo". The two most common dishes are boiled duck and the notorious raw blood pudding, 'tiet canh'.

‘Che troi nuoc’

Sticky rice is pounded into soft powder then rolled into small balls and stuffed with sweet green bean paste before being topped with sesame seeds. These chewy balls are then boiled and served hot with coconut milk. Kids or adults, everyone loves this treat.

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