In preparation for this huge celebration, my mom and I made traditional Vietnamese Glutinous Rice cakes (square, prisms, and log-shaped ones). Along with the traditional use of white sticky rice, my mom also used black glutinous rice, which gives a twist in color and in taste. Every New Years, my mom and basically the rest of the family set out to make these delectable cakes, a tradition that has been passed down throughout the generations of the Vietnamese people. A (variation of the) folk tale explains the origins of these rice cakes, and how they represented the Earth and the Heavens:
"There once was a King who was in constant pressure to choose an heir out of his several sons. A few weeks before the celebration of the Lunar New Year, he set up a contest for the young princes; their task was to individually prepare a special dish that is unique and delectable for the king to taste and which would make a fine offering to the ancestors. If the dish is successful and passes judgment, that respective prince will be the next heir. So thus, the princes split throughout the vast kingdom, in search of rare and exotic ingredients to prepare their dish. The youngest of the princes, stayed in the city. The Young Prince did not have as much wealth as his older brothers nor did he have any idea what to prepare because most of what he could think of did not seem unique or fitting for a king. The night before the contest, he decided to forfeit and not attend the taste testing. However, as he slept that night, a magical wise man came into his dreams and instructed him to make two different kinds of cakes made from glutinous rice. One would be in a square shape, wrapped in banana leaves with fillings of savoury mung bean paste and slices of fatty pork. This rice cake, banh chung, would be symbolic to the green rice patties fields found throughout Vietnam, thus representing Earth. The second cake, banh day, which is made from glutinous rice powder, is shaped into thick round patties. The whiteness of these cakes and it's blandness represent purity and the round shape represents how vast and full Heaven is. The magical wise man guaranteed that these cakes will impress the King and the court. The Young Prince arose from his sleep and quickly got to work that very night.
|The variety of rice cakes|
|Black Sticky Rice Banh Tet|
Other offerings for ancestors include a platter of fruit that contains a soursop, a coconut, a papaya and mangoes. According to tradition, each fruit represents a slang used as a word of prayer for abundance in the coming new year.
|Veggie braised Pork and Egg with rice paper and veggies|
|Veggie Braised Pork (close-up)|
|Braised Pork and Egg|