Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Making Banh Tet

Yesterday we rode on the backs of motor bikes to a small village out of Hoi An. Bruce rode behind Quyen, the Director at Reaching Out in charge of the retail store. Elaine rode behind Anne, an American (from Oregon living here), who is also a volunteer at Reaching Out and a quilter. Anne and I lost Quyen and Bruce, because we stopped to get a bug out of her eye. We just telephoned Quyen on her cell and she came zipping back. Thank goodness for technology in rural Vietnam!

The gentleman in the picture ( father of one of the staff at RO), is capping off his Banh Tet. These special delicacies are made by the hundreds before Tet, because they keep for days. The banana leaves are cut into large square pieces, with a few smaller strips for the finishing end bits. After several squares have been carefully laid on the tray, a ridge of rice is mounded in the centre. Next a trough is made in the rice which is filled with a bean and spice mixture. The wrapping has to be exact and the tying with bamboo string is an artful finish. Several bands of the bamboo are twist knotted, the ends tucked carefully under the previous band. Bruce's job was to slice the bamboo into string with a machete. The whole package will be put in a huge caldron of water, flavored with herbs and boiled all night.

This holiday staple is sliced for eating, over the course of the holiday. Traditionally no cooking is done on the actual day of Tet ( this year Thursday, February 7th), so there is almost feverish preparation going on these days.

Shopping has also become frenzied, with everyone scurrying to and fro on bikes and motor bikes, ladened with purchases.....flowers, decorations, trees in pots, food in baskets. It was so pleasant to spend a morning in the country side. A highlight was the communal market garden pictured above. The organic vegetables and flowers from this garden are sent to a huge market in Da Nang. I know that Eliza would love to see this operation!

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