Everyone is busy these days yet we still try to squeeze as much of our cultural traditions into the nanoseconds that we have to spare. Last Thursday and Friday, I was scheduled to be in Seattle for an Asian Dumplings luncheon at Monsoon East restaurant (the room was packed to the brim with nearly 70 guests). I didn’t return home till Saturday afternoon. How did I rearrange my Tet celebration to welcome in the Year of the Tiger? My strategy unfolded as so:
- Last Tuesday: Soaked rice, cooked mung beans, and cut banana leaves for banh chung sticky rice cakes.
- Last Wednesday: Wrapped banh chung cakes, made pickled shallots (dua hanh) and tangy pickled cauliflower, carrot, and red bell pepper (dua gop). Refrigerated it all.
- Saturday, after landing in San Jose: Went directly to an Asian market to pick up vegetables, lots of pork. Rory pulled out the Tet decorations and we hung all the red and gold around the house. Attended a Chinese dumpling-making party.
- Sunday: Ate a banh chung sticky rice cake and pickled vegetables, called my parents to wish them chuc mung nam moi, and texted a bunch of friends to wish them the same. Marinated the meats for pork riblet kho and Vietnamese charcuterie (gio lua, cha mo, gio bo). Candied orange peels (mut vo cam).
- Monday: Made Vietnamese sausages, head cheese, simmered pork riblets in caramel sauce, cleaned the house.
- Today: Putting last minute touches on more food and preparing for a blowout Tet dinner with friends, including Pim, David Kinch, and winemaker Randall Grahm and his family.
I’m sliding into home plate but it’s been lots of fun. My Tet celebrations are not as coordinated as they used to be in the past. Despite the pressures of a hectic schedule, I try my best to be as old school as possible. It’s not easy but I turn off the computer and head to the kitchen. Apparently, the reverse is happening in Vietnam. This morning I found a story from Vietnam about how Tet foods and menus there are now less complicated than in the past. The causes were related to how more women now work outside of the house and people purchase things or go out, instead of preparing traditional foods at home. Take a read for the changes going on in Vietnam.
What did you do or are doing for Tet 2010? What has changed for you? How do you manage to keep the spirit of the Lunar New Year alive?
P.S. For recipes of the items mentioned, above, I crack open (really!) my cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, and follow my instructions.