Overseas Vietnamese celebrate Lunar New Year thousands miles from home
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The Vietnamese community in Belgium gather together in the city of Leuven, 20km (12 miles) away from Brussels. The hostess, Nga Pham (in pink shirt) has been known for her Vietnamese traditional food cooking savvy.
La dong, the green leaves used for wrapping the Lunar New Year special rice cake banh chung have had to be pre-ordered in a Vietnamese store in Brussels, said one member. Priced at 14 Euros ($17), they usually go out of stock very fast at this time of year.
Mung bean, another essential ingredient of the cake, are cooked until soft. Nga had to resort to Thai sticky rice for banh chung’s skin, as the Vietnamese high quality one couldn’t be found in the nearby Asian market.
The group tried to stick to the traditional recipe as much as possible by transporting the giang strings all the way from Vietnam to tie their cakes.
Nga Pham has been having friends from the Vietnamese community in Belgium over her house for the traditional cake making since 2010. “It brings everyone closer, giving us a great time together away from home.”
Thousands of miles away, the Vietnamese Americans in California are also busy preparing for Tet. With more than 100,000 Vietnamese, San Jose is the city with the biggest Vietnamese American population in the United States.
Stores in Asians malls are piled with banh chung,banh tet - the cylindrical version of the new year rice cake, and mut (dried fruits).
Yellow mai, or Apricot flowers, the symbol of Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration are protected from the cold under the plastic cover. They are sold at $70 in the city.
Hai Huynh’s family is also celebrating Tet in the snow in Utah.
As the couple has just welcomed their first son Dong Quan last year, they are excited to teach him about the home country’s New Year by decorating the house with peach and apricot flowers, and preparing traditional Tet food, including pickled onions, caramelized pork and of course the special rice cakes.
“I definitely will bring my family back to Vietnam to celebrate the next Lunar New Year,” Hai said.
In the meantime, Vietnamese workers in Tokyo, Japan are celebrating their spring festival by putting up a small traditional food cooking competition.
The three teams, grouped by their home regions in Vietnam – the North, the South and the Central, prepared their version of Tet feast to win the top prize of Y10,000 ($93).
The Southern team presented stuffed bitter melon soup, caramelized pork and eggs, and steamed rice noodle stir-fried with mushroom.
The Northeners brought out traditional steamed chicken, baby jackfruit sticky rice, freeze cooked pork, and fried spring rolls.
The Central prepared pha lau, or braised organ meat, salted squid and beef tongue ragout.
Share with us in the comment section below your Tet celebration away from home.
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