Sunday, September 11, 2016

Tet 2017 - when to arrive?

Tet holiday in Vietnam

Tet begin the first few days of the new year on the Lunar Calendar, this is the longest holiday which may last up to 7 - 10 days.
In 2017, Tet is on January 28th to January 31th (Gregorian calendar)
Tet occupies an important role of Vietnamese, it is the time for everybody to come back to their hometown, to express their respect and remembrance for their ancestors and having a good relaxing time after a hard-working year.
Best places to visit Vietnam during Tet holiday
1. Da Lat
2. Nha Trang
3. Hoi An
4. Ha Noi
5. Ho Chi Minh city

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gifts for Tet festival

 Giving gifts on Tet Festival, which has been long a traditional custom in Vietnam’s ancient culture, represents not only the close relationship but also the thorough and subtle of human behaviors. Vietnamese are extremely careful in talking and behaving on the very first days of New Year, as it can determine the good fortune throughout the year.

In the past and present

Hundred years ago, Vietnamese, most living in rural areas, had a convention of exchanging agricultural products as the gifts whenever the Lunar New Year came. A pair of sticky rice square cakes, a cock or wine kept in pottery gourd was believed to contained the essence of heaven and earth; thus would show the amiability among families and signified their dream of prosperity and a full future. In the past, the tough living conditions made it difficult for people to have new clothes frequently but only on the occasion of New Year. This reason explained why children often gave a new piece of red cloth or velvet scarf for parents, in order to express their respect, gratitude, and the hope for good health. Over times, giving gifts on Tet Holiday has become a special piece of traditional culture that is well-preserving and passing to the following generations. Since the society is modernized and relationship among people has altered to catch up with the speed of development, giving gifts is not a must for token of exchange anymore, but a part of rules of propriety. Besides the traditional meanings as neighbors, friends and families ties; giving gifts represents the long-lasting corporation between colleagues or business partners as well. Nowadays, people are willing to pay millions for luxuriously limited “baskets” of gifts, giving to bosses, wishing for support for future career.

What to give in Tet Festival?

Choosing gifts for Tet Festival is definitely not an easy task, due to the complicated norms and religion beliefs. Normally, Vietnamese will avoid giving kittens (as their meow sounds like “ngheo”- poor in Vietnamese), ink (because the color of black is considered bad fortune) and sharp items such as knives and forks. While clothes, scarfs and sticky rice square cakes are still the traditionally meaningful gifts that parents and the elderly often receive from children; there are many modern products that can be used as gifts also.

Here are among the most popular gifts given for Tet Festival:

A branch of peach blossom

Together with kumquat tree, peach blossom is regarded as the irreplaceable decoration for Tet Festival in Vietnam. Legend has it that peach blossom is the home of two deities who can control evil spirits, thus, a branch of peach blossom in New Year will drive all the ghosts and bad fortune away. There are a few kinds of peach blossom, from the red, pink to the white ones, depending on whether it is grown in mountainous or plain area. In Hanoi, Nhat Tan’s flower garden is most famous for carefully-planted peach blossom, while in Moc Chau, we can easily see wildly high peach blossom trees.

Wine and gift baskets

If in the past, wine is kept in pottery gourds, nowadays; those old gourds are replaced by modern wine bottles with well-known brands coming from both local and all over the world. However, the meaning of wine as the gift of New Year has remained unchanged. It takes a lot of time for wine to ferment and distil; so wine is highly appreciated by Vietnamese. Nevertheless, drinking wine can make people feel warm and energetic, which are exactly what people wish for their upcoming year.

If you have a Vietnamese business partner, it is time to further enhance your bonds by sending them a gift basket with branded wine.

Red items

Spring is the season of the brightest and most effulgent colors. Especially in Asia’s beliefs, red is considered good luck, prosperity, joyfulness and contentment. We can see the red color everywhere, from the ornaments, lucky envelopes, to the clothes of the elderly on the first days of New Year. Coming to Vietnam during the Tet Festival, tourists can see the whole streets covered with the color of red. Whichever gifts you plan to give, place a priority on red and yellow and avoid dark colours. For example, if you want to buy children new clothes, try to pick the most bright coloured ones. 

Greeting cards

Sending greeting cards is the custom having its roots from the contemporary era. It is fast, convenient, and certainly very suitable for today’s busy modern life. If you are a foreigner and confused about the Tet Festival gift a Vietnamese friend, there is nothing better than a greeting card. Typically, Tet Festival’s greeting cards are printed with vivid colors like red or yellow, and distinctive images such as apricot and peach blossom, square sticky rice cake, parallel sentences, etc. Common greetings can be told are “Happy New Year”, “All wishes come true”, and ‘I wish you a healthy and wealthy new year!”. Around a week before the holiday, at Vietnamese schools, teachers often help pupils making their own handmade cards. Pupils then will bring their cards home and give to show their love to parents and other family’s members.

Hoi An travel tips during Tet holiday

 As Tet holiday is the most important time of a year to Vietnamese, just like Christmas and New Year combined to Weterners, there are some notes for travellers who want to travel to Hoi An during this holiday to avoid bad experience.

1. Apply for a visa as soon as possible

Like other governmental bodies, the Visa issuing authority, including Vietnamese embassies, consulates and Immigration office, would be closed from January 21st and will only get back to work on January 30th. Therefore, you should work out your travel plan carefully and apply for the visa as soon as possible to avoid the unnecessary delay of flights.

At the airport, the immigration officers on call remain open to give you visa stamp for visa on arrival.

2. Book in advance

As many foreigners share the same interest in experiencing a traditional Tet in Vietnam, it would be not easy to get rooms in Hoi An’s hotels, especially high-quality ones, if you didn’t book in advance. The 9 day holiday means that the locals also have ample of time to head Center and South for holiday too and Hoi an is always a quality choice.

Transport is another matter to be concerned. Reserve your airplane tickets and train tickets as soon as you can and expect holiday surcharge. 

3. Shops closed/ Shops open

Though recently, there have been more and more shops opened on Tet holiday, tourists still have to be aware of the fact that a number of shops would not do so. Especially for those who want to have new clothes made at Hoi An’s famous tailors, Tet is actually not the best time. The exception is A Dong Silk at 40 Le Loi Street, Hoi An. Tel (84) 0510 3863 170. This tailor will be closed for just 1 day before Tet and the first day of Tet only (January 22nd and 23rd). 

If you plan to stay in Hoi An after January 26th, there would be more options, including

> Yaly Couture at 358 Nguyen Duy Hieu St., Hoi An, which has 4 showrooms as below Showroom 1: 47 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street; Showroom 2: 47 Tran Phu Street; Showroom 3: 358 Nguyen Duy Hieu Street; Showroom 4: 580 Cua Dai Street

> Kim My Tailor at 70 Tran Hung Dao St., Hoi An.
> To To Boutique at 32-34 Ba Trieu St., Hoi An.
> Thu Thuy Tailor at 60 Le Loi St., Hoi An

4. Restaurants closed/ Restaurants open

The good news is that most restaurants don’t close the whole Tet and usually just for a couple of days. Here are some suggestions:

> Le Banyan bar
An Bang beach, Hoi An 51000, Vietnam - Tel: 0935100337

> The Cargo Club
107 D Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: 0510 3910 489

> Dao Tien
21 Phan Boi Chau, Hoi An, Vietnam

> Good Morning Vietnam
102 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: 0510 3910 227

> Lantern Town Restaurant
49 Nguyen Thai Hoc Str, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: + 84 1239912212

> Laugh Cafe Restaurant

126 Tran Cao Van St, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: 0905192532

> Voulez-Vous

631 Hai Ba Trung, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: 0510 3927 339

5. High prices

Don’t expect food, clothes, etc. to be as cheap and reasonable as stated in your travel guide. On Tet holiday, everything, with bill or not, will involve a holiday surcharge, from a bowl of Cao Lau to a suit made to order. Moreover, many restaurants may not have full menu either. Accept this as part of your holiday will relieve you from unnecessary stress.

6. Be careful when buying or bargaining

When you want to buy something in shops during Tet holiday, be careful, especially with bargaining. Sellers have strong belief that if their new year starts strong with the generating of many sales this will determine a prosperous outcome for the year. Hence it can be very disappointing and annoying to a merchant if you inquire about an item to later not buy it or you bargain so much. This is a sign of loss prosperity through-out the year, to their opinions. In order not to get their anger, try to buy at least one thing in their shops, even the smallest and cheapest one, in case you have entered their shops and asked for goods. The advice is to look at the item carefully from outside before getting inside. Looking does no harm.

2016 - Year of the Monkey

 For Vietnamese kids, monkey is probably the most familiar animal. Monkey is often thought of as a smart and fast animal which now exists either in a circus or in rural rainforests.

“Popular” monkeys in Asian cultures

It is believed that the association of the twelve animals in the calculation of time and date rooted in the worship of animals. Monkey, the animal that most closely resembles human, is undoubtedly chosen. In fact, monkey is not only reputed in the zodiac but also in classical literature and traditional religions. Ton Ngo Khong (or Sun Wukong in the famous Journey to the West TV series) is but one member in the league of famous monkeys.

In India, Hunuman is also a monkey that is worshipped. The divine monkey first appeared in the two major Sanskrit epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and later became known as one of the Hindu deities. Hanuman is not only popular among Hindus but also revered by Buddhists in Central, Southeast and East Asia.

Personalities of the “monkey” people

Both Ton Ngo Khong and Hanuman are dipicted as intelligent, versatile, inventive but sometimes naughty warriors. Likewise, people born under the monkey sign are believed to be smart, creative, possessing a magnetic personality but at the same time mischievious. Like money which is an distinctively intelligent animal, “monkey” people are born to be inquisitive and curious. These qualities make them such fast learners and enable them to excel in a wide range of careers from business to science and arts.

On the other hand, for the same reason, “monkey people” are always seeking novelty. Therefore, they may find it difficult settling down in relationship. Easily bored, they often have many partners. Yet, those who can conquer the heart of “monkey” people are fortunate since “monkey” people tend to be very open and attentive in communication.

In discussion, “monkey” people are often assertive, willing to present their own ideas,which makes them active members of any group or organization. The weakness is that they may become too talkative, arrogant and impatient sometimes. “Monkey” people can achieve more if they know how to resist the urge and listen to others. Health is often not a worry to “monkey” people since they prefer an outdoor and active lifestyle. Still, “monkey” people should pay more attention to ensure their safety when they are outdoor.

Outgoing, attractive and creative, “monkey” people have a good chance to become famous. David Copperfield, Joan Crawford, Tom Hanks, Harry Houdini, Will Smith and Miley Cyrus are some of the celebrities who were born under the monkey sign.

The monkey year 2016

According to the Lunar Calendar, the monkey year of 2016 is Binh Than or Fire Monkey year. It is believed that in Binh Than year, parents should give birth in Summer or Spring to ensure the best future for their children. Furthermore, the monkey year 2016 is predicted to be an unstable year when careful planning and group action may fall short. Individual effort and innovation will play a more important role than institutional and orthordoxy attempt. Rely on your own instead of your organization and go ahead with your ground-breaking ideas will be the most sensible advice in the monkey year of 2016.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mung Bean Pudding - Vietnamese Che Kho

 To many Hanoian generations, mung bean pudding has become a familiar dish which always presents on the ancestors’ altar at New Year’s Eve. Mung bean pudding is not a delicacy but a dessert, its ingredients contain a precious medicine for gastrointestinal diseases – the cardamom.

Cardamom is a highly aromatic spice that is most commonly planted in mountainous provinces of Viet Nam, its flavor is slightly sweet and hot, very suitable to combine with a wide range of other ingredients from poultry, vegetable to cake. And in the dish of mung bean pudding, the hot cardamom goes perfectly with the cool mung bean.

 Unfortunately, this dish has lost its position in Vietnamese Tet’s meal, people can only see this dish at markets or at pagodas’ fast.

Mung bean pudding is made from dried mung bean, sugar, grapefruit extract and cardamom following a secret portion that only skillful and experienced cookers know and that is the reason why ancient mothers always took this dish to test the ingenuity of their future daughter.



How to make Vietnamese mung bean pudding.
Preparation time: 15 Minutes
Cook time: 120 Minutes

Prepare ingredients

• 0.5 kg dried mung beans (still in shell)
• 0.5 kg granulated sugar
• 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
• 1/2 tablespoon grapefruit extract (or vanilla)
• 1 dash of Cardamom powder

 Detail Recipe

1. Soak mung bean overnight, pick out all bad beans, and remove shell/skin of the rest, let dry.
2. Dry sesame in a hot shallow pan, let cool.
3. Boil mung beans in a pot until tender, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.
4. Boil water, add sugar and mix with the boiled mung bean, cook over low heat, stir constantly until it becomes a thick paste.
5. Add cardamom powder, grapefruit extract and sesame.

Served warm or cool.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bánh Tét - Essential to Tết in the South of Vietnam


Banh Tet, a representative cake in the South Vietnam, can be easily found at any house during Tet. Banh Tet is another modified version of Banh Chung from the North. The ingredients, such as the glutinous rice, mung bean, cooked pork are almost the same as Banh Chung’s. The shape of Banh Tet, however, is cylindrical not square or round shaped.

 Making Banh Tet

Banh Tet is often made in advance, about a week prior to Tet. Glutinous rice must be the best one - fragrant and fresh to create the highest quality Banh Tet. Mung bean should be rinsed many times before being cooked. Pork and pork’s fat seasoned with salt, sugar and other spices is cooked in advance before mixing all together. Some people also put dried shrimps together with pork at the core to make it more delicious. Banana leaf is used to cover all the ingredients. Once all ingredients prepared in advance have been put on the banana leaf and tightened with some plastic ribbons, Banh Tet, then, will be steamed in a large pot.

 When it’s ready, people use some threads and cleverly cut it horizontally. The soft glutinous rice well mixed with pork and mung bean looks like a donut without a hole in the middle but with a tasty core. Banh Tet is often eaten with cu cai muoi, cu cai nuoc mam (turnip pickles, turnip fishsauce pickles) and thit kho nuoc cot dua (pork cooked with coconut juice). Banh Tet can be stocked in the refrigerator during Tet. Whenever they want, they can steam it to reheat it or fry it in a pan to change the taste. Some people put some powder covering Banh Tet and fry it which makes it crispy and even tastier.

Serving Banh Tet and varieties

Tea would usually be an ideal drink to go with any kind of cake. Banh Tet is not an exception. A cup of hot tea would be perfect for cleaning adhesive rice in your teeth’s corners and increase the taste of Banh Tet when it comes down the throat.

Besides, Banh Tet can also be made from banana, called Banh Tet Chuoi. Banana must be ripe enough to make Banh Tet Chuoi sweet. Unripe banana will results in bitter and sour Banh Tet Chuoi. Banh Tet Chuoi is popular in Mekong Delta area, especially in Tien Giang Province. If you get a chance to stop by a market in Tien Giang Province, be sure not to miss it. Try a bite and you may like it,then!

If Banh Chung – Banh Day is considered as a symbol for the North, Banh Tet is a unique dish for Southern people. Banh Tet, as well as its process from making to savoring, has been a significant activity that partially brings the warm Tet atmosphere of reunions among family members and neighbors when they sit together and share the taste of Banh Tet on the first day of New Year.

Boiled Chicken - A Simple yet Unique Taste of Vietnamese food


Living in a culture of wet rice civilization, Vietnamese has a deep connection with nature and to them, besides the buffalo, chicken is one of the six most familiar animals (including: chicken, pig, goat, buffalo, and horse).

Chicken was domesticated a long time ago and has occupied an important role in Vietnamese life, we can see it through:

The custom of telling fortune by chicken feet:

Vietnamese believe that feet of the chosen cock (the one offered to Gods at New Year Eve) will let them know about the coming year of each generation in the family.

It requires an old and experienced person to read the message from a pair of cock’s feet, but in general, nice yellow feet with clustered claws are good. As according to ancient people’s explanation, “chicken use 3 claws to dig land to find food, 4 claws to fight against enemies. When a chicken clusters its claws, it shows the voluntary dedication”.

Chicken feet which inform good signs will be hung on the kitchen’s roof till the next New Year Eve, in the hope to bring about good luck for the family in the new year.

The Vietnamese perception of chicken:

Chicken brings many values such as rich-nutrient food, natural clock (Vietnamese farmers wake up as the chicken starts their dawn song)  or in spiritual life, chicken or more precisely cocks symbolize for the divine relationship because they feature for 5 virtues of:

- Knowledge (Văn): cock’ crest looks like ancient civil mandarin’s hat.
- Martial art (Vũ): cock’s spurs and beaks are used as powerful weapons in fighting.
- Bravery (Dũng): cocks protect hens and chicks.

- Care (Nhân): a cock can combine with many hens.
- Prestige (Tín): cock always crows on time, whether it is sunny or rainy.

The above aspects contributes to an indispensable role of the chicken in Vietnamese daily life.

Chicken for Tet:

During Tet, boiled castrated cock is essential – it is often considered a symbol of purity and best offering to ancestors.

Cocks using for Tet need to meet the strict demands such as: crests must be bright red, feather is smooth, and legs are small – signs of a strong cock. After being boiled, the cock holding a rose in its beaks will be respectfully displayed on the family’s altar. In some families, people trim a carrot into a flower to replace the rose, whether it is a rose or a trimmed carrot, it shows the Vietnamese’s yin-yang concept, as the flower demonstrates the yin (female).

How to make boiled chicken:

Ingredients:


• 1 chicken.
• 1 dried lime peels.
• 1 tsp salt.
• 2 tsp ginger.

Directions:

1. Wash the chicken with salt and water, let it dry.
2. Add 3 liters water, ginger, salt and the chicken into a pot, boil in 30 minute.
3. Dust the chicken with chopped lemon leaves.
lich am duong