It's Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration this week, completely with explosions, tradition and food. Want to be an intermediate-level Tet-food-eater? Here are five foods full of glutinous rice, mung beans, and banana leaves for you to try out.
Is it a little work to eat? Yeah, and it might not be the healthiest thing either, but hey, you probably gave up on being leaner already, and you might as well get some good luck (and red envelops) for your hard work.
5. Bánh chưng (Sticky rice cake with pork and beans, pronounced "banh chuung")
Bánh chưng, the ultimate Tết dish, is a square-shaped rice cake made out of glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork wrapped in banana leaves. The ingredients are soaked and wrapped carefully before being boiled for hours on end, resulting in a rice cake that's soft, moist, stick and wonderful. The preparation's a lot of work, but it's New Years.
To eat bánh chưng, you unwrap the banana leaves the way you would a gift (please, please, please remember to unwrap the banana leaves). From there on out, you can go to town, making your way through all three layers: the rice, the mung beans, and finally, the pork.
4. Xôi gấc (Sticky rice with baby jackfruit, pronounced "soy gahc")
Xôi gấc is bright red, so obvious you should eat it for good luck. Want a good year? Eat xôi gấc. Want to fall in love with a hottie that's sweet and smart? Eat xôi gấc. Want all forms of good fortune? You should probably eat xôi gấc.
Xôi gấc is a sweet glutinous rice dish made with a fruit similar to jackfruit and appears at every joyful Vietnamese celebration. Tết (only the biggest Vietnamese celebration of them all) is, well, no exception. If sweet, chewy xôi is on the dinner table, you know something good is going on, which is all the more reason to celebrate by stuffing your face.
3. Chả lụa (Vietnamese sausage, pronounced "chah luew")
Chả lụa is a Vietnamese sausage with a cold-cut feel and sausage-like texture. Like banh chung, gio is wrapped in banana leaves and needs to be unwrapped before consumption (please unwrap it). Chả lụa is slightly salty, which makes it a perfect partner for banh chung and xoi gac, two lighter dishes.
2. Mứt Me (Vietnamese tamarind-flavored Gushers, pronounced "muht muh-ey-uh")
If you want to try anything remotely close to Vietnamese Gushers, try mut me. There are multiple candies to try from the Mứt Tray (a circular tray filled with Vietnamese Tet candies), but mut me is a unique, gushy candy, which is neither a seed or candied fruit, unlike the rest of the tray. The taste of the mut me is slightly sour and, when consumed, the tamarind flavor gushes out of the candy wrapper like, well, gushers.
1. Bánh tet chuối (Cylindrical banana rice cake, pronounced "banh theht chuwuhoowee")
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Bánh tet chuối is a cylindrical-shaped banh chung filled with bananas instead of pork. Think of it like a sweet, chewy Vietnamese burrito with rice instead tortilla. Or maybe a chewy dessert egg roll. Like most forms of Tet food, you will have to, once again, unwrap the banana leaves to get to the content of your bánh Tết chuối. But hey, by now, you might just be getting the hang of it.