teafume irl

10

The best thing about Lunar New Year holiday is the act of gathering together to make all kinds of traditional food. 

The Vietnamese ‘bánh chưng’ is a traditional savoury rice cake with mung bean and seasoned pork belly stuffed in glutinous rice, wrapped inside large 'dong’ leaves (the leaves turn the rice a beautiful green colour), and boiled in a large pot for 11 hours. Its history goes back nearly 4000 years, when a prince presented the square rice cake to the Hung king as a symbol for the earth (back in the days, the earth was square, and the sky was round). The rice cake is made of everyday ingredients of farming life: rice, mung bean, and pork. It is appreciation for the local farming culture at its finest. Every new year, all Vietnamese families have a pair of bánh chưng on their family altar.

I’m a flop at tying the strings, but wrapping the rice cakes was fun. I made five!! (Yes the pair on top is mine.) It was very effort-extensive and time-consuming work, but it’s the process that makes it feel like home.

7

Hoi An - street food edition, because I totally did other things beside hanging out at pretty cafés.

  • Cao Lau noodles
  • Sweet corn and coconut milk
  • The Best Banh Mi, according to Anthony Bourdain (I’ve had so many great banh mi around the country but it was pretty damn solid for a classic - and dirt cheap, too)
  • Hoi An chicken rice
  • Tau pho / douhua / tofu pudding, a classic local street snack I can’t get enough of
  • Grilled pork with rice noodle sheets
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Hanoi temple tour with grandma on the fourth day of the new year. My parents wandered into this old temple when they came upon a charming old scholar. Being typical Asian parents and overly concerned about my love life, they had 缘 written for me (it’s an old Hanoi tradition to visit a calligraphy scholar and have a word written for the new year as good luck). At least the concept of “duyên” is something I’m most inclined to believe - you’re meant to connect with certain people or places at certain points in your life, but it’s up to you whether to follow it.

This year, I wish for a new beginning.