Vietnamese Lunar New Year’s Eve

The Year of the Dragon!

The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, Tet Nguyên Dán or Tet, is the really biggest holiday in the Vietnamese culture. It may seem that it falls on a different day every year but the day is in accordance of the Lunisolar Calendar or commonly known as the Chinese Calendar.

Many Vietnamese, like my parents, go all out on the food and on cleaning the house. (We gotta start the New Year fresh with a clean house)
On the Lunar New Year’s Eve, my parents brings us all together for a small family dinner. Upon eating, we pray to our ancestors and ask them “to come home for dinner” and join us before the arrival of the new year!

Pickled Vegetables

My mom usually makes the following for our traditional dinner before Tet:

  • Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua)
  • Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork Belly and Eggs (Thit Kho),
  • Pickled Bean Sprouts (Dua Gia)
  • Pickled Cabbage or Mustard Greens (Dua Cai Chua)
  • Pickled Leeks (Cu Kieu)
  • White Jasmine Rice

Back in the day, every single household in her town had the same exact dinner: Bitter Melon Soup, Braised Pork Belly & Eggs, Pickled Veggies and rice.

Why is that? Why Bitter Melon Soup?

The word bitter melon has always been commonly known in Vietnamese as Kho Qua. The word for bitter melon in Vietnamese is not a straight translation of bitter or melon.  From what I understand, the word “kho” means “hardship” and “qua” means “to pass,” so the true translation of this soup should be “To Pass the Hardship Soup.” So in essence, the Vietnamese have traditionally consumed this soup at the end of the year in hopes to take away their hardship for the new year.

I did not like eating this when I was a kid because it is very bitter but I have come to really love it!

So Why Braised Pork Belly & Eggs?

This is a classic dish. I have grown up on pork belly my entire life. In fact, my mom would probably tell the story about me eating just the fat when I was a little girl and laugh at me for trading the meat part for more fat with my brother. –You will be happy to know that I don’t do that anymore…anyways! When the  town shuts down in celebration of the holiday, families would stock up for the next few days and share this family classic for dinner. It is an easy dish to make and is plentiful enough to last a week! Braised pork belly and eggs is usually eaten over white rice with fresh cucumbers and pickled vegetables like leeks, mustard green, and etc.

Here is a good example of the dish looks like, prepared by

Thit Kho Braised Pork Belly and eggs

(Thit Kho) Braised Pork Belly and eggs

It is in a week and I will be having a traditional dinner with the family but I will be hosting a party of my own the following weekend in celebration of our holiday. It is just another reason to get together and feast on a generous amount of delicious food! –Holidays are FUN!

Here is what I am planning on having on my menu for about 30 people; it is tentative menu but it will be a mix of store-bought and homemade items:

(buy) Chicken Dumplings
(make) Vietnamese Spring Rolls

(make) Jelly Fish Salad or Papaya Salad will be made by my mom.
(make) Chicken Lettuce wraps

(make) Seafood Asparagus Soup

(buy) Hong Kong-Style Crispy Roast Pork
(make/buy) Chicken wings tossed in fried garlic butter
(make) Char Siu Spare Ribs

(make) Korean-Style Vegetable Stir Fry Yam Noodles
(make) Vietnamese Fried Rice

(make) Caramel Cream Cheese Flan by Al’s mom, Elsa Castilho
(buy) Fruit Cake

I have about 2 weeks to get everything prepped and ready for the party. I will be sure to document and show you how we do it in my house! ;o)


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