Everyone is doing a 2009 year in review and looking back, all I have to say is, "What a year it has been." I hope that you've all enjoyed the holiday season. Mine was restful and I'm happy to report that all the family events went smoothly. No one misbehaved. What do Vietnamese people eat at Christmas time? Well, that all depends as Vietnamese people celebrate the holidays in many ways. It's often multicultural, reflecting the unique cultural amalgam that is at the core of Vietnamese culture. There are traditional foods for Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan), but for Christmas it's all mixed up. For example, my family is Catholic and we celebrate on December 24 according to the French/European tradition of reveillon. This year, we had an unusual mixture of Eastern and Western fare at my parents' home on Christmas Eve.
In advance of the dinner celebration, my mom and dad ask via email, "What do you want to eat?" and the rest of us make our requests. This year, two of my sisters came with their kids. My nieces and nephews submitted a crazy-quilt of favorites. Cynthia surprisingly wanted a humble sticky rice dish from northern Vietnam. Her brother Michael wanted wontons in broth. I threw some homemade dim sum classics, taro puffs and char siu bao, for good Asian dumpling measure. My mom used the dinner as an excuse to make her favorite, southern Vietnamese banh xeo sizzling rice crepes, which she turns out in industrial quantities. She also scored on a holiday ham deal at the local supermarkets and baked two of them -- 20 pounds of ham. My nieces, Paulina and Nikita, baked fancy cookies from a Nick Malgieri cookbook.
Here's the menu, which may seem Frankenstein-like, but it worked:
Taro Puffs (banh khoai mon)
Baked Char Siu Bao
Wontons in Broth
Sticky Rice with Hominy and Fried Shallots (xoi bap)
Sizzling Rice Crepes (banh xeo)
Honey Ham with Red Wine and Orange Rind
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Braised Mushrooms Stuffed with Pork with Oyster Sauce
Fancy Cookies by Paulina and Nikita
Sweet Tofu Custard (che dau hu)
We drank prosecco, dry white port, and red wine. There was some kind of non-alcoholic sparkler for my mom and the kids who opted out of wine. My sisters let their kids have wine, if they wanted. I was delighted to know that they had a headstart program for their kids to drink responsibly. My dad got me going around six years old.
We used to have traditional holiday dinners with roast goose, duck, stuffing and Christmas yule log cake (buche de Noel). But over the years, we've strayed away from those typical menus. Christmas has become more of a holiday to have a family reunion, and the food we savor comfort and cheer us. The meal was the gift that we all shared.
What did you eat and drink?
P.S. These photos are courtesy of my dad and sister, Yenchi. Thanks!