What to Eat for Vietnamese Tet Doan Ngo (Mid-Year Festival)

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Tet Doan Ngo takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month every year. It is the second most significant festival in Vietnam (the first being the Lunar New Year Festival). Tet means festival, Doan means start, and Ngo refers to the horse which is the seventh animal in the Vietnamese zodiac. The Tet Doan Ngo Festival is also known as Tet giet sau bo which translates to the festival for “Killing the person’s inner insects”. People will worship their ancestors and harvest gods, then ask for good harvests and abundant life.

Sau Bo translates to worms or pests. The festival name comes from the fact that on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month farmers must get rid of all pests to start growing their crops for the new season. During the festival all people and creatures must strengthen their physical health as well as their souls. The whole family must get up early to eat fermented sticky rice and fruits. They will worship at noon, which is the hour of Ngo. There is also a tradition to eat dumplings, specifically lye water dumplings. It is believed that the dumplings will cleanse the body of unwanted “parasites”.

Below are dishes that are typically served at Tet Doan Ngo.

  1. Banh U
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Banh U are sticky rice lye water dumplings that are wrapped in banana leaves. They have a pyramidal shape. The Banh U are often stuffed with beans and banana leaf essence.

2. Com Ruou

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Com ruou means “rice wine”. The dish consists of little balls of fermented rice bathed in wine. It is a very important dish for the festival for it is believed that the spicy taste of glutinous rice wine in com ruou will cause the “parasites” in the body to be destroyed, especially the “worms” in the stomach.

3. Duck

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In the Central and Southern regions of Vietnam, duck meat is a traditional dish to eat during the festival. Around the time of year when the festival occurs, duck meat will be fattening and have its most delicious flavor. It will also not have its usual odor.

4. Seasonal Fruits

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Fruit is an indispensable dish in Vietnam that people use to worship their ancestors, no matter what region they live in. During Tet Doan Ngo summer fruits like plums, lychee, and rambutan are abundant.

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The Tet Doan Ngo Mid-year festival is a wonderful time for families to worship their ancestors and to pray for bountiful harvests, prosperous lives, good health, and to kill all the sickness within people.

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