Tết 2016- The Set Up and Food

02.08.2016

0800

So I just wanted to share the set up that my family uses for Tết. We use the alter, entryway dresser and dining table as our platforms. The alter is for Buddha (bàn thờ Phật), the entryway dresser is used for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai) and the dining table is used for my ancestors (ông, bà).

Before the Tết ceremony begins: (Day 1)

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During the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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On the alter sits a bowl of dry rice in which we have placed many incense sticks (cây nhang) over the years during each Tết celebration. On the entryway table is the set up for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai), which includes a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, water glasses, a variety of foods such as soup (Canh), Vietnamese braised pork with eggs (thịt kho), Vegetarian stir fry egg noodles (mì xào chay), shrimp salad (gỏi tôm), and fresh fruit. On the dining table, there is a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, three bowls of rice for my ancestors (one for my dad’s side, one for my mom’s side and the third is for all other ancestors), water glasses, candles and the same variety of foods as on the entryway table but in addition, there are also Vietnamese mung bean dumplings (bánh ít trần).

Tradition goes that when ceremony starts, each person always prays and greets Buddha first with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) at the alter, then we move over to the entryway table and ask the Saint of the Property, permission (xin phép) to invite our ancestors to come and celebrate Tết with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). Then at the dining table, we invite our ancestors to come and celebrate with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). After each request, we each place one incense (cây nhang) into the designated dry rice bowl. At the end of the first round of bows, each person will visit each table again to ask permission to leave the ceremony, but using the same amount of bows and prayers per table that was used in the first round. This second round of bows and prayers will release the person to go on with their day as they please.

After the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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The bows, prayers and the placing of the incense sticks are repeated each morning for three days (ba ngày Tết), during the three day celebration. At the end of the three day celebration, there will be another feast that will be the same set up on each table and on the alter in which we bid farewell (tiễn đưa) to our ancestors.

In the late evening (close to midnight): (Day 1)

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In the late evening, we celebrate the New Years Eve (Cúng giao thừa) by lighting the alter candles and  welcoming the new year. This ceremony includes three separate steps by the owner of the home. The first prayer (lạy Phật) takes place at the alter to Buddha with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). Then the owner will step outside on the front porch of the home and prays to Heaven and Earth (cúng trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) The owner will then come inside to the alter and will pray to the lord of Heaven and Earth (lạy trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). The owner of the home will then place three incense into the rice bowl at the alter after these last three bows are completed. This last set of bows will end the ceremony of welcoming the new year.

 This is an overview of what the set up is for my family for this year. There are traditional baked goods missing from this set up such as Bánh chưng (Vietnamese rice cake which is made from glutinous rice, mung beans, pork and other ingredients) and  Bánh tét (savoury but sometimes sweetened cake, made from mung bean or mung bean and pork filling), as well as tea in addition to the water glasses. Each family has their own variation of what foods they cook or how they set up their ceremonies, this is just my family’s set up for this year.

So,  Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! (Happy New Year) I wish you all a healthy and happy new year with plenty of wealth and triumphs throughout the year 🙂

Recipe – (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs)

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs (Vietnamese braised pork) - great with rice and popular on Lunar New Years!

This thịt kho recipe is a low and slow braise so the meat is going to be reeeeally tender. In this recipe we’re going to use pork belly because the fat on the meat tastes awesome! If you can get pork belly with the bones, you’ll have even better results. My ideal ratio of pork for this dish is actually 1/2 pork belly and 1/2 of a leaner cut like shoulder.

Hard-boiled eggs for thit kho - boil and peel them first!

Near me in Southern California’s Little Saigon, I hear you can get a higher quality of pork belly at Quang Minh Mini Market. It costs more for the belly, but there seems to be a consensus that its worth the cost–something I need to check out soon!

Here are the brands I use for the seasoning: Rico coconut soda, Kikkoman soy sauce, and Three Crabs Brand fish sauce. The thick soy sauce brand is Koon Chun, to be used in a pinch.

thit kho seasoning

As a kid I enjoyed mashing the yolk with the rice and spooning sauce over it–it’s fun! This dish is commonly eaten with a side of dua chua (pickled mustard greens) which provides a fresh and crunchy balance.

Chopped yellow onions for thit kho, to add another layer of flavorNotes:
I have tried adding slices of yellow onion too and it adds a nice layer of flavor to this dish. You can remove the onion at the end of the braise if you prefer since it will have given up all its flavor to the broth. For the seasoning in this thịt kho recipe: tinker with the soy sauce, fish sauce, and salt after the liquid has finished reducing, to taste.

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs and pickled mustard greens

5.0 from 2 reviews
Thịt Kho – Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs
Prep time
10 mins
Cook time
2 hours
Total time
2 hours 10 mins
Author: Hungry Huy
Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of pork belly, cut into 1.5″ cubes
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs
  • 6 ounces coconut soda (I use Rico brand)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or replace this with fish sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into large pieces (6-8 will be fine)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar for the caramel color (nuoc mau). This is to deepen the color of the dish. Depending on how dark your caramel sauce gets, you may not need to use all of it. In a pinch, you can use about ⅕ teaspoon of thick soy sauce instead, but the caramel sauce will tastes better.
Instructions
  1. Cut the pork into smaller pieces. I like 1.5″ cubes so it cooks slightly faster.
  2. Bring 2-3 quarts of water boiling on high, or enough to fully submerge the pork.When the water’s boiling, add the pork for 1-2 minutes just to clean it. Drain then rinse the pork under running water until the water is clear.
  3. Add the coconut soda, soy sauce, fish sauce and salt to the pot.
  4. Fill up the pot until the water just covers the pork. Turn the heat to high.
  5. When it hits a boil, drop the heat until you still see a slight boil, maybe about about 25% heat and let it simmer uncovered for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Check and stir the pot every 20 minutes. The longer you cook it, the softer the pork gets. Leaving it slightly uncovered lets the liquid reduce so you get a nice concentrated sauce later.
  6. Make the caramel color and add it to the pot.
  7. Make the hard-boiled eggs: add to a pot and cover the eggs with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Remove from heat and let it sit for 8 minutes. Cool in water then peel. Add the hard boiled eggs to the pot of pork in the last ~30-40 minutes of cooking.
  8. When there are about 30 minutes left on the timer, add the eggs. Eventually we want the liquid to reduce to about ⅓ or ¼ of the original.
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Comments

  1. SK says:

    Good job :) A good food in Tet’s Days at Vietnam, however, eating it in normal days is ok ! ^^

    • Huy says:

      Year round is definitely okay with me too :)

  2. Huy Vu says:

    Thanks! Just wish I had some Dua Cai Chua to go with this. =]

  3. daisy says:

    its so hard to find vietnamese recipes i understand and use online. more more more.

  4. Huy Vu says:

    =] sure thing.

  5. Jessica says:

    This reminds me of a Korean side dish called “Jang Joh Rim.” I wonder if they taste similar!

    • Huy says:

      Yeah it seems a lot of Asians share a similar variation of this dish!

  6. jason says:

    Huy, do i cover the pot with a lid? or leave it open?

    • Huy says:

      You only need to cover it slightly at the start so the liquid can reduce. Towards the end you can probably remove the lid entirely–adjust as needed.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Really great recipe, the step by step pictures are really appreciated. Thank you for sharing, and keep them coming!

  8. Jen says:

    Similar to adobo in the philippines:) ill try this recipe..

  9. Shay says:

    A friend made this as a comfort meal for me once and I loved it!
    Now I can try making it for my family. Wondering if this needs to be simmered covered with a lid or left open to boil? Thanks

    • Huy says:

      Lid open mostly, to reduce. If the meat is still tough you can add water as needed and continue to boil uncovered until it reaches a sauce thickness you like.

  10. LT says:

    This is way better than the Filipinos’ adobo.

  11. Eric says:

    looks similar to adobo but taste way different to adobo trust me this dish is heaps tastier

  12. steve says:

    make sure you use good fish sauce, like the one pictured above.

  13. Linda says:

    I love the pictures and the steps are very similar to my notes from my mom’s cooking lesson to me. The only thing is I just cooked it today with the country style boneless ribs and I compared it to the pork belly meat. Somehow the rib meat was more tough. Is there a way to make it more tender? I cooked 2hrs as your recipe dictates.

    Also, many people asked & I wonder also, do you cook your pot covered or uncovered?

    • Huy says:

      I cook it uncovered so the liquid can reduce (evaporate) to an amount I like. If you see it reduces too much you can put the lid back on or add some water.

      As for toughness of the meat, different cuts will vary in amount of connective tissue. Just cook it longer if its still too tough. At first I was afraid to overcook it, but giving it more time has always resulted in tender results. Just check it every 15 minutes or so.

  14. Tracy Le says:

    Just tried your recipe. Turned out so awesome. Thanks!!! :)

  15. foodiegal says:

    Is that a typo? This doesn’t take 20 hours does it? If so, can we cook this in a crock pot?

    By the way, I’ve had this dish many times at parties and IT IS TO DIE FOR! I love that the ingredients are simple and so are the directions. Is there a substitute for the coconut soda, if I’m not able to find it? Thanks!

    • Huy says:

      I’m DYING, that’s hilarious!! Yeah I meant to say 2 hours–oops, that’s been updated and thanks!

      The best thing you can use is fresh coconut juice, coco soda 2nd, then 3rd is cola or lemon-lime soda. Hope that helps.

  16. TrinityTrinh says:

    Can you substitute chicken or beef? I do not eat Pork. I’m sure it won’t taste the same but thought I would ask

  17. Trinity trinh says:

    Have you or can you substitute chicken or beef. I have taken pork out of my diet.

    • Huy says:

      Hey Trinity, I personally haven’t tried it but I bet it would be pretty good too. I’ve had this with tofu instead of meat and really enjoy that version too!

  18. Amy says:

    Super easy recipe to follow, and ended up delicious! I used pork shoulder only because the local grocery store didn’t have any pork belly left, and the end product was still absolutely delicious! The meat was so tender and flavorful without being too salty. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • Huy says:

      Hey Amy glad to hear you liked it! Yeah you can really use any cut of pork you want and it still turns out pretty well :)

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A Zero Waste Lifestyle

01.17.2016

0646

Before I went zero waste, I used to buy anything bottled, use sponges in the sink, bought spices packaged in plastic bags and also in glass jars, and the worst culprit of all was that I bought packaged foods.

Kitchen Now:

  1. Whole Foods Market: Bulk balsamic vinegar, Bragg’s Liquid Amnios, raw honey, candy, oats, black beans, whole wheat flour, cane sugar, cranberries, spices and coffee.
  2. Philz Coffee: Loose leaf green tea and chamomile tea (and coffee if I want Philz coffee each morning)
  3. Kitchen Items: 3 pots & pans, 1 grill, 1 set of basic flatware, 1 set of basic kitchen utensils, 1 hand held mixer, 2 silicone bakeware pans, 1 dinnerware set, 1 set of mixing bowls, 1 set of Pyrex storage containers
  4.  Dining: Cloth napkins and kitchen towels, Tea infusers, re-useable wine corks, wind-up flash light and I now compost everything
  5. Recyclable products: Soups, baking soda, and occasionally wine

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Living Room Now:

  1. Giant/small towels as floor mats and door mats, I hate that the rubber backing on standard door mats falls apart after exposure to weathering.
  2. I buy digital books or I check out books from the library (Fortunately I bought an iPad when I started grad school so it came in handy)
  3. I use an indoor air filtering plant to liven up the space as well as making it functional as well.
  4. I limit the amount of batteries I need/use. I replaced my flashlight with a wind up flashlight and in total I have 3 items that uses batteries. In addition to that, I limit the size of batteries to AAA or AA (it’s really not necessary to have a library of them and it makes attaining them harder when traveling).
  5. Christmas bag: Flour sack towels (28″x 29″) and bandannas for wrapping gifts. If you wrap gifts using basic box wrapping techniques and then tuck the ends within the folds, you can always secure the wrapping. Or check out Furoshiki and check out the techniques they list and their products they have available.
    1. Here are some examples from the website:

Basic WrapFlat Object WrapRoll Wrap 1

Office Now:

  1. I use refillable ball point pens and lead and replace them in my pen/pencil unit
  2. Due to my profession, moving away from rendering materials is quite difficult so I do use colored pencils and a lead holder as well as a Faber-Castell kneaded eraser. (The kneaded eraser doesn’t slough off eraser bits)
  3. I used to keep my work saved on re-writable CDs but now I have a 1 TB external hard drive. I also utilize my emails and use my clouds to store data.
  4. I use a stapleless stapler so now I don’t buy staples for refilling and it’s very efficient
  5. I’ve opted out of junk mail as much as I can but some mail still gets through, when it does, I use the back of the one sided pages as scratch paper (I can’t remember when the last time I bought paper).
  6. Recyclable products: Envelopes, stamps and Christmas cards… There are still items I value and I can’t seem to stray from and hand writing is one of them. I value a hand written letter, the ink/lead on paper denotes a moment in time- a moment in time when the writer touched the document as well as the receiver.

This is an over all view of what my life inventory looks like now. It makes life a lot easier when I have less to worry about. Majority of my time, I think I’d prefer eating food or going on an adventure. Once I got rid of a lot of my items, I noticed that I sleep better now, my stress level seems to lessen because there’s less upkeep with my life. It’s strange how when I used to think of hanging out with my friends meant that we would go shopping (and not window shopping), and now that shopping really isn’t a part of my life- I had to search to find what to replace it with. Even if I had the choice to document my life in photographs, I think there’s still a pressure to do so- sometimes, the memories are enough to take away from that experience.

A Zero Waste Bathroom

01.16.2016

1650

So I filled out the “About” section of my website yesterday and I know I wrote that I’m trying to live a zero waste lifestyle. I use the word trying because the system isn’t perfect. As we all change and get older, our needs change, whether it be mental needs, health needs or the needs of our loved ones. So this is the trash I’ve accumulated so far in 2016:

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I started trying to live a zero waste lifestyle in 2010 and over the years my system became more refined. I found better alternatives for current products I use and even had to opt out of certain products. To give you a better perspective of what I gave up, I made a list: (of what I could remember)

Bathroom In The Past:

  1. Tampons (Tampax)
  2. Scented bedroom spray (Bed Bath & Beyond)
  3. Bug spray for your body (OFF)
  4. Face wash (Clearsil)
  5. Deodorant (Secret Invisible solid)
  6. Toothpaste (Colgate)
  7. Toothbrushes (made of plastic that would end up in the landfill)
  8. Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond)
  9. Band aids (BAND-AID)
  10. Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin)
  11. Nail polish (from wherever)
  12. Nail polish remover (store brand)
  13. Shampoo bottles (Garnier)
  14. Conditioner bottles (Garnier)
  15. Harmful bathroom cleaning sprays (Scrub/409)
  16. Toilet cleaner (Scrubbing Bubbles)
  17. Jewlery cleaning liquid (La Sonic Jewelery Cleaner Concentrate)
  18. Cotton balls (store brand)
  19. Cotton swabs to clean my ears (Q-tips)
  20. Candles (to make the bathrom smell nice)
  21. Fancy body lotions from (Victoria’s Secret)
  22. Face lotion (Neutrogena)
  23. Rubbing alcohol (store brand)
  24. Toilet Paper (Store brand- packaged in plastic)
  25. Make-up (chap stick/lipstick/eye shadow/eyeliner/mascara)
  26. Disposable razors (Gillette)
  27. Dental Floss (Oral-B SuperFloss Dental Floss)

Bathroom During the Present: (Product details can be found under: Store> Store Link)

  1. Vinegar
  2. Toilet paper (wrapped in paper)
  3. Dr. Bronner’s soap bars (which I use for 6 different household cleaning tasks)
  4. Deodorant crystal
  5. Baking Soda
  6. Stainless steel seasoning container (to contain my baking soda)
  7. Compostable toothbrushes
  8. Citrus essential oil
  9. Keeper Moon Cup
  10. Dental floss (ECO-dent)
  11. Bulk lotion
  12. Gauze and paper tape
  13. ALBA Sunblock
  14. Pumice Stone & Wash rag
  15. Sage leaves (I burn sage to release the aroma and use it as a cleansing method )

I think that’s pretty much the entire list. If I’ve left out anything I’ll come back to edit it. This is what my bathroom looks like now:

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From the list of items I used to buy, the one criteria I needed each product to pass was the plastic packaging issue. Now I buy items packaged in glass or stainless steel OR paper (and not the glossy kind of paper- just raw paper). I have seen bulk soap sold in stores, but they always have a sticker price tag attached to them, which is not recyclable. I use my Dr. Bronner’s soap for cleaning my bathroom, as a body wash, as a face wash, pet shampoo, laundry detergent, and dish washing soap. With the amount of use I get from one bar of soap, I think this investment pays for itself. I now only use candles in my emergency kit in case of a power outage. My list also was tested with the help of another blog called “The Zero Waste Home” with Bea Johnson and her family. I followed a majority of what she suggested but there were a few that I did not agree with. If you want to check them out, here is the link The Zero Waste Home

There are a few hang ups with this system that still doesn’t make it completely 100% zero waste, such as sunblock and make up. However I did discover a company called TerraCycle who will let you mail them certain trash to be reused into other items as long as you join one of their brigades. Check them out here TerraCycle- Outsmart Waste Currently I’m on their wait list for their Personal Care and Beauty Brigade.