The Lunar New Year holiday called ‘Tet Nguyen Dan’ is one of the biggest holidays in Vietnam. Students and workers often have 2 or 3 weeks off during the holiday. Actually the Tet holiday mainly lasts for 3 days, but we have a few days off before the Tet to prepare in advance. In the Korean exchange program, we introduced the Korean friends the jams and fruits served in Tet holiday.
In the main days of Tet holiday, jams are served as a snack to welcome the guests. The jams are kept in the beautiful trays and placed on the table in the living room. People sat drinking beer or soft drinks while nibbling the crunchy jams. Unlike the Western jams, Vietnamese jams often consist of dried candies and some seeds such as watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. The common variety of jams is the sugar-coated dried lotus seeds which you can see in the center of the below tray. The round lotus seeds are very sweet and crunchy. The preserved yellow kumquats taste so sweet and sour while the yellow ginger jams are sweet and a little bit spicy. Next to them are the sugar-coated dried shredded coconuts. The pineapple jams with the thin transparent wrappers taste sour-sweet and sticky.
In the below tray, you can also see many dried shredded coconuts covered with a thin layer of sugar. The waffles are sweet and delicious. There are a lot of dried reddish watermelon seeds on the dish. Biting the watermelon seeds is quite challenging but very fun.
FIVE-FRUIT TRAY (MAM NGU QUA)
A five-fruit tray (Mam ngu qua) plays an important role during Tet holiday. The tray is placed on the ancestral altar to symbolize the gratitude to the ancestors. The fruits in the tray can differ from the regions. In the north of Vietnam, the five-fruit tray consists of kumquats, pomelos, peaches, bananas and persimmons while in the south of Vietnam, it is ornamented with custard apples ( Cau), figs (Sung) coconuts (Dua), papayas (Du), mangos (Xoai) and watermelons because when we combine the Vietnamese names of those fruits, we will have a sentence “Cau Sung Dua Du Xai” which means praying for enough prosperity. We had a great time decorating the five-fruit tray with Korean friends. We had a small game which was to put all the required fruits into one dish.
We also played many card games which are very popular during Tet holiday.