Friday, September 25, 2009

Tet Trung Thu - Mid-Autumn Festival In Vietnam

Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Moon Festival) is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean (even though they celebrate it differently). It is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.

In Vietnam, it’s called Tet Trung Thu, one of the most popular family holidays. Vietnamese families plan their activities around their children on this special day. In a Vietnamese folklore, parents were working so hard to prepare for the harvest that they left the children playing by themselves. To make up for lost time, parents would use Mid-Autumn Festival as an opportunity to show their love and appreciation for their children.

Appropriately, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also called the Children’s Festival. This tradition continues in many Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam. Tet Trung Thu activities are often centered around children and education. Parents buy lanterns for their children so that they can participate in a candlelight lantern procession. Vietnamese markets sell a variety of lanterns, but the most popular children’s lantern is the star lantern. Other children’s activities include arts and crafts in which children make lanterns. Children also perform traditional Vietnamese dances and participate in contests for prizes.

Like the Chinese, Vietnamese parents tell their children fairy tales and serve mooncakes and other special treats under the moon. A favorite folklore is about a carp that wanted to become a dragon, the carp worked and worked and eventually transformed itself into a dragon, this is the story behind the mythical symbol. Parents use this story to encourage their children to work hard so that they can become whatever they want to be.

One important event before and during Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival are unicorn dances. The dances are performed by both non-professional children group and trained professional groups. Unicorn dance groups perform on the streets go to houses asking for performing. If accepted by the host, "the unicorn" will come in and start dancing as a wish of luck and fortune, and the host gives back lucky money to show thankfulness. &

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pho - Very Popular Beef & Rice Noodle Soup From Vietnam

Pho is very popular really, many ones said that talking about Vietnam was talking about Pho. Most of Vietnamese and foreigners love Pho in the first taste, that's why most of Pho restaurants usually have many customers though its price is not really cheap.

How to cook Pho ? Okay, let's cook it with Mai Pham !

This beloved noodle soup is a complete meal in itself and is best served for breakfast or lunch on a weekend. Because the simmering takes at least two hours, I like to prepare the broth a day ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator, where it will last for three days. Many cookbooks call for it to be made with oxtail bones, but I prefer marrow bones and beef chuck, which is what Pho cooks in Vietnam use. A good Pho broth needs to be clear, not muddy and dark, certainly fragrant of beef, anise and ginger.

You can serve this soup with several toppings, but the easiest ones to prepare at home are cooked and raw beef.

To use broth that has been made in advance, bring it to a boil, then add fresh ginger to refresh it. Come serving time, get friends or family to help cook the noodles and assemble the bowls. Make sure that the broth is boiling hot and the bowls preheated. Allow about 1 part noodles to 3 parts broth for each bowl.


* 5 pounds beef marrow or knuckle bones
* 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2 pieces
* 2 (3 inch) pieces ginger, cut in half lengthwise and lightly bruised with the flat side of a knife, lightly charred
* 2 yellow onions, peeled and charred
* 1/4 cup fish sauce
* 3 ounces rock sugar, or 3 tablespoons sugar
* 10 whole star anise, lightly toasted in a dry pan
* 6 whole cloves, lightly toasted in a dry pan
* 1 tablespoon sea salt

Noodle Assembly:
* 1 pound dried 1/16 inch wide rice sticks, soaked, cooked and drained (see Tips, below)
* 1/3 pound beef sirloin, slightly frozen, then sliced paper-thin across the grain

* 1/2 yellow onion, sliced paper-thin
* 3 scallions, cut into thin rings
* 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
* 1 pound bean sprouts
* 10 sprigs Asian basil
* 1 dozen saw-leaf herb leaves (optional)
* 1 serrano chili, cut into thin rings
* 1 lime, cut into 6 thin wedges
* Freshly ground black pepper


1. In a large stockpot, bring 6 quarts water to a boil. Place the bones and beef chuck in a second pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil vigorously for 5 minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the bones and beef to the first pot of boiling water. Discard the water in which the meat cooked. (This cleans the bones and meat and reduces the impurities that can cloud the broth.) When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Skim the surface often to remove any foam and fat. Add the charred ginger and onions, fish sauce and sugar. Simmer until the beef chuck is tender, about 40 minutes. Remove one piece and submerge in cool water for 10 minutes to prevent the meat from darkening and drying out. Drain, then cut into thin slices and set aside. Let the other piece of beef chuck continue to cook in the simmering broth.

2. When the broth has been simmering for about 1 1/2 hours total, wrap the star anise and cloves in a spice bag (or piece of cheesecloth) and add to the broth. Let infuse until the broth is fragrant, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard both the spice bag and onions. Add the salt and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until you're ready to assemble the dish. The broth needs to cook for at least 2 hours. (The broth will taste salty but will be balanced once the noodles and accompaniments are added.) Leave the remaining chuck and bones to simmer in the pot while you assemble the bowls.

3. To serve, place the cooked noodles in preheated bowls. (If the noodles are not hot, reheat them in a microwave or dip them briefly in boiling water to prevent them from cooling down the soup.) Place a few slices of the beef chuck and the raw sirloin on the noodles. Bring the broth to a rolling boil; ladle about 2 to 3 cups into each bowl. The broth will cook the raw beef instantly. Garnish with yellow onions, scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately, inviting guests to garnish the bowls with bean sprouts, herbs, chilies, lime juice and black pepper.

How to Char Ginger and Onions:
To char ginger, hold the piece with tongs directly over an open flame or place it directly on a medium-hot electric burner. While turning, char until the edges are slightly blackened and the ginger is fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Char the onions in the same way. Peel and discard the blackened skins of the ginger and onions, then rinse and add to the broth.

Chef Mai Pham shares her tips:

• Rice sticks are translucent, linguini-shaped dried noodles sold in Asian markets. For Pho, buy the small, 1/16 inch wide variety. To prepare them, first soak them in cold water for 30 minutes and drain. Then bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. When you're ready to serve (not before), place the noodles, one portion at a time, into a sieve and lower it into the boiling water. Using chopsticks or a long spoon, stir so the noodles untangle and cook evenly. Blanch just until they're soft but still chewy, about 10 to 20 seconds. Drain completely, then transfer to a preheated bowl. Cook the remaining noodles the same way. If you're cooking for several people, you may also cook the noodles all at once by adding them directly to the pot of boiling water. Just make sure to serve them immediately.

• The Vietnamese believe that "a meat dish should taste like a meat dish," says Pham. Cooking the meat with vegetables would distort its flavor, so all veggies (except for aromatics like ginger and onion) are added after cooking. Since Vietnamese food is so simply prepared, using the freshest, highest-quality ingredients is essential. Pham recommends seeking out organic, antibiotic-free meat and purchasing it on the same day you plan to use it to ensure freshness.

• Fish sauce, a pungent, salty liquid made from fermented anchovies, adds depth and flavor to numerous Vietnamese dishes. For best results, choose bottles priced at $3 to $4 rather than $1, and pass on jars that are dark, which indicates oxidation or the presence of additives. "Look for fish sauce in glass jars. Avoid plastic," says Pham. "The fish sauce should have a nice, even color, like iced tea." She suggests Three Crabs, Lobster Boy, and Phu Quoc brands. When cooking with fish sauce, always add it to other liquids: Never place it directly in a hot, dry pan, which would broadcast its pungent, fishy odor throughout your kitchen in a less than pleasant way. Soy sauce is an acceptable vegetarian substitute, though it does lack fish sauce's smoky complexity.

• When prepping ingredients for Vietnamese cooking, Pham recommends cutting everything into small, even sizes, which cook more quickly and evenly. A mandoline makes quick work of the paper-thin slices of onions that top this soup.

• Asian basil, also called holy basil, has a delicate anise flavor. Regular (sweet) basil does not make a good substitute, as it's too strong. "Use mint instead," says Pham. Saw-leaf herb has a floral, cilantro-like flavor and three to four inch long, dark-green leaves with serrated edges. Cilantro or Asian basil make good substitutes. Both herbs can be found in the produce section of Asian grocery stores or in farmers' markets.

• Pham suggests substituting fresh red serrano chiles, which are hotter and sweeter than their green counterparts.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ha Noi - Capital Of Vietnam

Ha Noi is located in the Red River Delta, in the center of North Vietnam. Ha Noi means 'Hinterland Between Rivers' (Ha: River, Noi: Interior). Ha Noi's territory is washed by the Red River and its tributaries, but there are some other rivers flowing through the capital.

Ha Noi is a sacred land of Vietnam. In the 3rd century BC, Co Loa was chosen as the capital of the Au Lac Nation of Thuc An Duong Vuong. Ha Noi later became the core of the resistance movements against the Northern invasions. Located in the middle of the Red River Delta, the town has gradually expanded to become a very populations and rich residential center. At different periods, Ha Noi had been selected as the chief city of Vietnam under the Northern domination. In the autumn of Canh Tuat lunar years (1010), Ly Thai To, the founder of the Ly Dynasty, decided to transfer the capital of Dai Viet (大越, the Great Viet, the old name of Vietnam) from Hoa Lu to Dai La, and so he rebaptized it Thang Long (昇龍). The year 1010 then became an historical date for Ha Noi and for the whole country in general. For about a thousand years, the capital was called Thang Long, then changing to Dong Do (東都), Dong Kinh (東京, the same characters are used for Tokyo, Japan), and finally to Ha Noi (河内), in 1831. This sacred piece of land thereafter continued to be the theatre of many fateful events.

Throughout the thousand years of its eventful history, marked by destruction, wars and natural calamities, Ha Noi still preserves many ancient architectural works including the Old Quarter and over 600 pagodas and temples. Famous sites include the One Pillar Pagoda (built in 1049), the Temple of Literature (built in 1070), Ha Noi Citadel, Ha Noi Opera House, President Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum...

Ha Noi also characteristically contains 18 beautiful lakes such as Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, and Truc Bach Lake..., which are the lungs of the city, with their surrounding gardens and trees providing a vital source of energy.

Ha Noi is safe and accessible, friendly and easy to move around in. Extremely livable, fascinating and genuine are how most expatriates describe their Ha Noi living experiences.

The cultural life in Ha Noi is very interesting. Many of the well-known Vietnamese painters, musicians and writers have been trained in the best schools of Ha Noi. There are many housing options from gated communities to old French villas, from serviced apartments to Vietnamese houses. More and more, everything you'll need for living, household use, and school items are widely available. Supermarkets and shops stock many European and western products, art and school supplies are inexpensive and readily available. Satellite television, Internet access, and entertainment options abound. There are bowling alleys, arcades, many parks, and a water park. Fitness clubs, tennis courts, and swimming pools are convenient and music and sporting lessons are easy to arrange. Also, many cultural and arts events from symphony orchestra and ballet to the circus and water puppets bring a dynamism to city life.

Ha Noi economy is improving rapidly. In addition to the flourishing tourism, the city is confident that its other industries will continue to develop. Factories are sprouting like mushrooms around the city along with many local arts and crafts businesses. Commerce is expanding and new shops are opening everyday, such as bar and restaurants, decoration and souvenir stores and phone shops., &

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hoi An - Famous Ancient Town

Hoi An is a small city located in Quang Nam province and is home to approximately 120,000 inhabitants. In 1999, the old town was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO as a well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port of the 15th to 19th centuries, with buildings that display a unique blend of local and foreign influences.

Hoi An was founded as a trading port by the Nguyen Lord Nguyen Hoang sometime around 1595. The Nguyen Lords were far more interested in commercial activity than the Trinh Lords who ruled the north. As a result, Hoi An flourished as a trading port and became one of the most important trade ports on the South China Sea. Captain William Adams, the famous English sailor and confidant of Tokugawa Ieyasu, is known to have made at least one trading mission to Hoi An (around 1619).

In the 1700s, Hoi An was considered by some Chinese merchants to be the best destination for trading in all of Southeast Asia. However, the importance of Hoi An declined sharply at the end of the 1700s because of the collapse of Nguyen rule (thanks to the Tay Son Rebellion - which was opposed to foreign trade). Then, with the triumph of Emperor Gia Long, he repaid the French for their aid by giving them exclusive trade rights to the nearby port town of Da Nang. Da Nang became the new center of trade (and later French influence) in central Vietnam while Hoi An was a forgotten backwater. Local historians also say that Hoi An lost its status as a desirable trade port due to silting up of the river mouth.

The result was that Hoi An remained almost untouched by the changes to Vietnam over the next 200 years (somewhat reminiscent to the famous walled city of Carcassonne in southern France).

As of 2009, Hoi An is still a small city, but it attracts a fair number of tourists, also being a well-established place on the backpacker trail. Many visit for the numerous art and craft shops and tailors, who produce made-to-measure clothes for a fraction of the Western price. Several Internet cafes, bars and restaurants have opened along the riverfront. Hoi An is famed for its centuries old Cao Lau noodle, which can only be uniquely served here.The town is also famed for its unique lanterns.
Related Posts with Thumbnails