First-time Western guests celebrate Vietnamese Lunar New Year by cooking a familiar dish, describing it as “unmissable”.

Not only did the foreign traveler experience Tet Nguyen Dan for the first time in Vietnam, but he also willingly ventured into the kitchen to cook a very familiar dish.

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Vietnam has become a popular tourist destination for many foreign visitors not only because of its beautiful landscapes, attractions, delicious food, and hospitable people, but also because of its unique traditional culture. One of those cultural aspects that cannot be overlooked is the Tet Nguyen Dan, also known as the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

Many visitors cannot hide their excitement when experiencing the traditional flavors of Tet Nguyen Dan in Vietnam. And Max McFarlin, a young man from the United States, is no exception. In 2022, Max decided to celebrate Tet in Dalat for the first time, and he had some very interesting experiences such as going to the Tet market, arranging a tray of five fruits, and celebrating the birthdays of those around him. What’s more, Max also took the opportunity to cook a traditional dish that is familiar to every Vietnamese family during Tet.

Max McFarlin, an American visitor, decided to celebrate Tet in Vietnam in 2022. (Photo: Max McFarlin)

For Max, celebrating Tet in Vietnam was a completely different and exciting experience. Firstly, going to the Tet market was a unique experience for him. On the 28th day of Tet, witnessing the bustling atmosphere and lively trading activities at the Dalat market, Max remarked: “The Dalat market is not usually like this. Today, there are 20 times more vendors than usual. The paths are narrower due to the increased number of stalls and fruits on display. It looks beautiful and vibrant. It’s a bit crowded, but the atmosphere is very lively”.

Max also mentioned that this was a truly new experience for him. Though he was a foreigner, Max had a good understanding of Vietnamese culture and cuisine, as he had spent years traveling in Vietnam. He shared that different regions in Vietnam have different fruits displayed on the tray of five fruits. This time, Max chose to buy five types of fruits, including persimmons, coconuts, mangoes, star apples, and papayas. In addition, Max was fascinated and also bought a watermelon engraved with words on its rind because of its beauty and meaning.

American traveler Max enthusiastically visited the market on the 28th day of Tet in Dalat. (Photo: Max McFarlin)

Afterward, there was a dish that caught Max’s attention and made him stop to buy it. Initially, he had no intention of buying it, but as he passed by, he felt like he “couldn’t resist”. That dish was pickled onions and pickled radishes. These are two dishes commonly found on the traditional Tet meal.

Pickled onions have a crispy, tangy, slightly spicy taste and are usually made from pickling purple onions with vinegar, sugar, and a little bit of chili. Pickled radishes have a crunchy, sweet and sour taste and are usually made from pickling white radishes with sugar, vinegar, and other spices. These dishes not only stimulate the taste buds and enhance the flavors of main dishes such as sticky rice cakes and Vietnamese sausage in the Tet family meal, but also help with digestion.

Sticky rice cakes, sticky rice, and a kumquat tree are also essential items for Max’s Tet celebration in Vietnam. When he returned home, Max decided to cook a dish that is familiar to Vietnamese people during Tet Nguyen Dan, which is braised pork with eggs.

Max happily went to the market on the 28th day of Tet in Dalat. (Photo: Max McFarlin)

First, let’s talk about braised pork with coconut. In addition to pork belly or pork butt, the chef will also need to prepare grated coconut. The grated coconut is cleaned, the skin is peeled off, and then it is cut into small pieces that are bite-sized. After that, the coconut is marinated with the pork just like usual. In the end, the family can enjoy a flavorful dish of braised pork with coconut. The taste of this dish is considered harmonious because the tenderness and juiciness of the braised pork complement the crunchy and fragrant coconut.

Next is the dish of braised pork with white radishes. This dish is not only delicious but also nutritious. According to traditional medicine, white radishes have a sweet and neutral flavor. White radishes have the effect of stimulating digestion and protecting the stomach. They can also be used to treat coughs, reduce phlegm, and promote urination. That’s why combining braised pork with white radishes is also a very good option.

Braised pork with white radishes and coconut are two delicious and attractive versions for Tet. (Illustrative Image)

The third option for braised pork is to combine it with various types of fish such as tuna, snakehead fish, or goby fish. However, because the dish includes different types of fish, the chef must handle the ingredients with care. Otherwise, the fishy smell of the fish may affect the flavor of the dish.

As mentioned above, the “soul” of braised pork is the braising liquid. The braising liquid is made up of ingredients such as sugar, a little bit of water, chili, garlic, etc., depending on the individual’s taste. The process of simmering the braising liquid is also a crucial step in determining whether the dish achieves a perfect and delicious taste. For those who are inexperienced in cooking, choosing ready-made seasoning packets that contain all the necessary ingredients to make the braising liquid and braise the pork is also a good option.