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The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, also known as ‘Tết’, is today, and the entire country is joyfully preparing for what may very well be Vietnam’s most important holiday! It’s time to talk about ‘Tết’, and drool over the amazing traditional sweet treats that are usually served in Vietnam this time of year.
Tet is often accompanied by a sudden explosion of sweet snacks and great food all over the country. A month before the holiday, visitors may find themselves surrounded by a wide variety of colorful candies, roasted seeds, pickles and candied fruits, which are rarely served during the rest of the year. From local markets and grocery stores to modern supermarkets, rows upon columns of candied fruit boxes are fully stocked with merchandise, and sweet delicacies are being displayed all over the place. People usually take this chance to indulge in some sweet bites, as a good luck charm for a sweet new beginning, and even offer traditional Vietnamese desserts as gifts to friends and family, or as treats for visitors, often preparing platters full of candied fruits and roasted seeds beforehand. To help you avoid any confusion while visiting a Vietnamese house on Tet, here is a list of some of the most popular traditional ‘mứt Tết’ sweets.
‘Mứt Tắc’ (Kumquat Jam)
Among the wide variety of Tet sweet treats, kumquat jam is one of the best, since it’s absolutely tasty, and also works well for digestive problems- not to mention it is often used for treating a bad cough. Kumquat jam tastes fairly close to the fruit, but it’s a tad sweeter, with a tart-citrusy flavor. It has this great aromatic kumquat fragrance, which makes you want to eat a ton! The lovely fruits are usually cut into a five-petal-flower shape, and covered with a layer of sparkling and gooey kumquat syrup, which makes the jam even more shiny and eye-catching. Kumquat jam is usually served as a snack, or as an after-meal dessert during Tet holiday, as its vibrant golden color is believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the new year.
‘Mứt Dừa’ – Candied Coconut Ribbons
One of the most popular candied fruits for a ‘mứt Tết’ tray is candied coconut, which is favored by almost everybody from the North to the South of Vietnam. Covered by a layer of sugar coating, candied coconut ribbons come in many colors, and their divine taste is similar to that of sweet, dried coconut. Your kids will definitely fall in love with these creamy and crunchy ribbons. In the cozy family atmosphere of New Year Day, people often enjoy sipping on their tea and munching on some sweet candied coconut, while chatting the day away.
‘Mứt Me’ – Candied Tamarind
Unlike other candied fruits in a ‘Mứt Tết’ tray, candied tamarind is quite unique, and its taste is very similar to that of the fruit it was made with. It’s more chewy and slightly sour than sweet, and it typically smells like a real tamarind. You’ll find it wrapped in glass paper, shaped just like the original fruit, but it can sometimes be mixed with some white sesame, in which case the sweet is usually rectangular in shape. Through the paper, you can see the attractive amber brown color, which rarely fails to attract the people’s attention and lure them into enjoying it. But be careful, as candied tamarind can be very sticky!
‘Hạt Dưa’- Roasted Red Melon Seeds
During the Tet holiday time, you will probably be seeing many red-colored things around town, as local people believe that red is the color of luck, and also a reflection of good fortune. Red roasted melon seeds are thought to have the same effect, and they are often added to local people’s favorite dishes due to their crispy texture, delicious taste and healthy properties. In order to crack open a seed, you’d have to hold it vertically between your teeth, bite down hard enough for the skin to split, and carefully remove it. You might need to practice a couple of times before getting it right, but you’ll soon be addicted to it once you can master the skill. For almost everyone, one of the most uplifting parts of Tet could be just listening to people cracking the seeds open, while chatting casually, or just simply enjoying some red melon seeds themselves.
‘Hạt Bí’- Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
If melon seeds are a bit too hard for your teeth to open, you could try these softer-skinned roasted pumpkin seeds. Seeds are traditionally thought to represent growth, so they have become a ‘mứt Tết’ tray staple. Pumpkin seeds are not one of the most crispy and fun-to eat snacks, but they also very good for your health. With their awesome properties, pumpkin seeds have been regarded as a wonderful medicinal superfood, which helps increase bone density, and lowers cholesterol. Both traditional and modern medicine has proved that pumpkin seeds can greatly benefit people’s health, so you should definitely add this delicious and nutritious roasted snack to your Tet to-eat-list!
This year- the year of Monkey- ’Tết’ falls on February 8th 2016. So plan for a visit to your Vietnamese friends, say ‘Chúc mừng năm mới’, and happy eating!