Tet Nguyen Den, or Tet for short, is Vietnam’s biggest and most popular annual holiday. Kicking off in January or Feburary on the first day of the Vietnamese calendar (often the same time as Chinese New Year), it heralds the arrival of Spring. Like in Western culture, it’s a time to brush off the troubles of the past and look hopefully towards a propsperous future. Families prepare for Tet with a massive, cathartic spring clean: tidying and washing thir houses, buying new clothes, throwing open the doors to their shops, visiting relatives, arranging flowers and – of course – cooking.
Families prepare ingredients and recipes in advance and then gather to feast and celebrate. The most common dishes eaten around this time include banh chưng, banh day, gio, and sticky rice. If you’d like to bring a little Tet festivity into your home, canh mang mien, or noodle soup with chicken and bamboo, is a good place to start. Brought to you from our local Vietnamese friends at the Hanoi Cooking Centre (who lead travellers in delicious cooking classes on our Gourmet Explorer Vietnam tour), here is an easy-to-follow recipe for canh mang mien.
60 g dried bamboo
1 whole chicken
4 cm knob ginger, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon salt
500 g dried cellophane noodles
3 shallots, sliced
1 ½ tablespoon fish sauce
6 dried woodear mushrooms, soaked in water for 20 minutes
8 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in water for 20 minutes
4 spring onions, sliced
1 bunch Vietnamese mint leaves
4 lime leaves, thinly sliced
Soak the dried bamboo in water overnight. The next day, drain it, place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for one hour, topping up water as needed. Drain and cut into strips, removing any tough bits from the centre.
To make the broth, place the chicken, ginger and salt in a pot and cover with cold water. Slowly bring to the boil, skimming off any froth that makes its way to the surface. Simmer for one hour. Afterwards, remove the chicken from the broth and cut into bite-size pieces using a cleaver.
In the meantime, soak the cellophane noodles in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain.
Stir-fry the bamboo, shallots, fish sauce, salt and pepper for 20 minutes. Then add the mushrooms, pour in the broth and simmer for a further 20 minutes.
Finally, add the noodles and chicken and bring the whole thing back to the boil.
To serve, ladle the broth and garnishes into bowls and top with spring onions, Vietnamese mint and fresh lime leaves. More fish sauce can be added if required.
Feature image c/o Anthony Tong Lee, Flickr.
Learn the secrets to Vietnamese cooking on our delicious Gourmet Explorer Vietnam trip.