Tet of a Buddhist Vietnamese expat

    Mother said “you shall not eat meat on the first day of Tet“. And I said “yes, Mom.”

    It has been our family tradition that the first day of the lunar year is a vegan day. It’s not unique to our family of course, most Vietnamese Buddhists eat vegan on certain days of the lunar calendar, the number of days depend on the amount of devotion to practice the precept of not killing. To refrain from all of the festive food is also a step to train the mind against the worldly temptations. Normally, that would be difficult if I were at home, given the excess of pork sausage loaves, braised pork and eggs, banh chung banh tet, roast chicken, fried spring rolls, dumplings, et cetera. But I’m here by myself, it’s like expatriation on top of expatriation. To refrain from meat has never been so easy. 😉

    My quick and simple vegan lunch: steamed rice with muối mè (a mix of sesame, salt and sugar, similar to furikake but Vietnamese 😉 ), steamed bok choy, shisozuke umeboshi (salted plum with pickled shiso leaf) and pickled cucumber (a kind of tsukemono), an orange, a cup of mung bean milk from Banh Mi Ba Le and a cup of rose water. (In my recent San Jose trip, I found out that Chinese people take a particular liking to the bok choy outside the food realm. They make huge glass (or plastic?) bok choy that resembles chubby gold fish, except green and white, to put on pedestals for house decorations. Pretty cute, actually!)

    Rose water is the simplest way to healthily flavor your water that I learned from a friend: pour dried rosebuds (easily found as an herbal tea at any tea shop) into cold water, let the water be for a while, drink, refill the water. I use a small sieve to filter the rose petals when I pour my glasses and to keep the rose in the water pitcher, but eating a few petals wouldn’t hurt. I thought about making little temaki (rice cone wrapped in toasted seaweed) but that might taste too salty with all the pickles and muối mè.

    vegan-snacks-for Tet
    Snacks: vegan Biscoff cookie given to us by Abbot Thich Huyen Viet at the Lien Hoa Buddhist temple in Houston (these are surprisingly tasty!), a Pink Lady appleMiyaki Komedawara okoshi (basically, peanut and rice sweets) and a pot of Vietnamese lotus green tea.

    For dinner, I’ll probably have a few bánh u tro (sticky rice ash dumpling with red bean filling) and a packet of Vifon Vietnamese vegan instant noodle, then wait until 00:01 am to have a bowl of Dreyer’s double fudge brownie ice cream. 😉 (That’s right, refraining from ice cream is still difficult…) Happy Lunar New Year!

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