HUNG NGUYEN MANH 1
… be continued for section 1…
Are present also all varieties of beans: soy-beans, red beans, white beans, green beans whole grains or unhusked, that fill up many baskets big and small. The cereals also include maize, Italian millet, sesame, peanut… Pork in particular is everywhere: lean meat, fat meat, back fat, pig’s leg, pig’s side fat, pig’s nape fat, each item, each piece is cut separately and displayed on the plank-bed along with a tottering pig’s head.
Beside the pig are the domestic fowls: hen, musk duck (Fig.4), goose, pigeon. Musk duck and goose are the fowls that give a great deal of meat and can be used to replace the pig’s leg when one wishes to stew with bamboo shoots. These are superabundant dishes when all the offsprings gather together filling up the house. Chicken in particular is the type of dish that cannot be omitted on the tray of offerings.
Beside chicken, duck and rice – another important item is the pigeon, a fowl often used as a gift to present the fiancee’s family on festivities, which we shall have an opportunity to deal with later. Are also present, various items from sea and river such as fish, shrimps, crabs, oysters, snails… At this time of the year, the carps (Fig.5) are the most sought for and the shops selling them are very crowded as everybody want to buy at least one of them. Besides the fact that, once cooked or fried, the carp does not look humble at all on the tray of offerings at Tet, it also represents a horse for the Kitchen God to fly to Heaven.
Also listed on the list of things to buy of the women when they go to the market are all kinds of green vegetables such as: kohlrabi, cauliflower, chayote, potatoe, tomatoe, carrot, cabbage, white radish, pickles, salads, onion, pepper, garlic, chilli… as well as spices such as basil, cockscomb mint, seasoning herb, coriander, perilla…
Lost among the green tropical plants are the orange momordica, the kind of fruit that gives the orange colour to the plate of momordica sticky rice that looks quite attractive on the tray of offerings.
Present among the dried commodities are all types of shoot such as yellow bamboo shoot, ordinary bamboo shoot, pig’s tongue bamboo shoot which are a little expensive as they are really delicious dishes. Next come the types of Jew’s ears and edible fragrant mushrooms sold by strings, and pieces of yellowish dried fish bladder or dried pig skin filling many baskets. The last items to be added to this listing are various types of dry pancakes, raw dry pancakes, cut dry pancakes, rice sheets and vermicelli…
Let’s get to the commodities that bear more cultural value than material value, we mean the offerings i.e. the foodstuffs to be displayed on the altar. They include flowers, truncated cone shaped cakes, betel, areca nut, sugar cane, alcohol, preserves, and all kind of fruits such as orange, mandarine, kumquat, hands of green bananas, the yellow shaddocks, the finger citrons… the bundles of whole sugar canes along with various types of joss sticks such as yellow joss sticks, black joss sticks, incense coils, big size joss sticks, aquilaria, candles (Fig.6)… and various paper joss things to include spangled joss paper.
Apart from all the aforesaid items there are also types of commodities reserved for men of letters such as the rock works, ornamental flower pots (Fig.7)… Also displayed in abundance are the various types of alcohols, teas, preserves, folk paintings and firecrackers – especially the firecrackers. The familiar types of alcohols in the North are: besides liquors of all colours such are lemon yellow, reddish yellow, plum-purple … one often sees pots of countryside alcohol, pots of violet rice wine (people in the South call it “rượu nếp than” which means coal rice wine in English), pots of white wine… Concerning teas, the most common types are the Chinese teas, the tea packets, the tea boxes, the brown tea sold in liangs, the scented tea and a precious type of tea called the Phúc Thái frangipani tea. Finally, the preserves and sweets are also very diversified with square shape, round shape, hexagonal or triangular boxes, holding five flavour preserves, miscellaneous preserves… as well as preserves made of fruits and sold by kilos such as carambola preserve, lotus preserve, coconut preserve, tomato preserve, kumquat preserve…
In conclusion, he who goes to the Tết market for the sake of the whole family must remember to buy a few blocks of lime (Fig.8) for the old people to chew betel until the end of the first lunar month. This is because, if he happens to forget about it and has to buy some lime at the beginning of the new lunar year, he would bring aboutall kinds of ill luck throughout the new year, as folk people believe that “lime isruthless” (bạc như vôi). For that reason, housewives often remind one another of a time rule which reads:
“Đầu năm mua muối, cuối năm mua vôi” (One buys salt at the beginning of the year and one buys lime at the year end), as people believe that if they buy salt at the beginning of the year, their life throughout the whole year will be delightful and lucky.
He who goes to the market and does not enjoy tit-bits? Tit-bits selling shops at the Tết market have the most bustling activities. If not tasting any of the cakes such as plain rice cake, stickyrice cake, ash cake, glutinous rice dumpling stuffed with green beans, glutinous rice dumpling stuffed with meat pie, small pyramidal glutinous rice cake, popcorn cake… or any of the sweets such as sesame sweet, peanut sweet (Fig.9), flour sweet, drawn sweet, grilled rice sweet… one would at least choose a bowl of rice vermicelli among the variouskinds of snail vermicelli, cutlet vermicelli, stewed vermicelli, sour crab soup vermicelli, vermicelli with meat cooked with fragrant knotweed…
In the countryside of North Vietnam, until the days very close to Tết – 29th or 30th day of the last lunar month the close-to-Tết market days still have sellers who look hurried but the atmosphere is not as bustling as the days before. One hears everywhere the invitations with insistence inviting some buyers to buy the remaining chicken, the remaining eggs, or some unsold vegetables or fruits… from the sellers who strive their best to collect the last piastres to cover the countless expenses one might have to make on the 3 Tết days.
The last Tết market day, in spite of one’s desire to extend it, just cannot go over noon time – i.e. toward the end of “Ngọ” hour or the beginning of the “Mùi” hour (at 1 or 2:OO PM).2 After having generalized the selling and buying activities of the common Tết market days, we ought to catch this opportunity to describe the most specific Tết market days at a certain number of most noticeable regions that would help us to have a better understanding of the cultural, material and spiritual life of the Vietnamese people.
1 Associate Professor HUNG NGUYEN MANH, Doctor of Phylosophy in History.
2 According to LÊ TRUNG VŨ – The traditional Teát of the Vietnamese – Work quoted above.
BAN TU THU
◊ Source: Vietnamese Lunar New Year – Major Festival – Asso. Prof. HUNG NGUYEN MANH, Doctor of Phylosophy in History.
◊ Bold text and sepia images has been set by Ban Tu Thu – thanhdiavietnamhoc.com
◊ From Sketches in early 20th century to traditional rituals and festival.
◊ Signification of the term “Tết”
◊ Lunar New Year Festival
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for KITCHEN and CAKES
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for MARKETING – Section 1
◊ Vietnam Lunar New Year – vi-VersiGoo