19 Must-Try Vietnamese New Year Recipes

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Vietnamese New Year, called Tết Nguyên Đán or just Tết in Vietnamese, is the most important holiday in Vietnamese culture to celebrate the arrival of spring. It is also a big holiday in a lot of other Asian countries. Below is the list of our most favorite dishes to celebrate Vietnamese New Year.

a traditional Lunar New Year feast

Vietnamese Tet Holiday

Tet is an occasion for family reunion to forget about the difficulties in the past year and hope for a more prosperous and lucky new year. It is also the time for social gathering when people visit temples, pagodas and festivals.

Tet takes place in the one week around the first day of the year in lunar calendar. The calendar was used by Viet people for a very long time to guide agricultural activities including predicting temperature and precipitation. It does not strictly corresponds to the regular Gregorian calendar, so Tet falls on different days every year, but usually in January or February.

Food in Tet Holiday

Food plays a central role in all the three periods of Tet: the preparation before Tet (tất niên), the New Year’s Eve (giao thừa), and the new year celebration (tân niên). In fact, Viet people call the activities of celebrating Tet as “ăn Tết”, which means “eat Tet”. In Tet holidays, there is usually a lot of food to symbolize the hope for a more prosperous new year, to serve ancestors in the family altar, and to feed a big family reunion.

a traditional Vietnamese Lunar New Year feast

Some Tet food is eaten all year around, but many of them are eaten specifically during this holiday. For example, xôi gấc with its vibrant red color is very popular in Lunar New Year to symbolize a good luck wish. Chưng cakes (in Northern Vietnam) or tét cakes (in Southern Vietnam) are essential in any Viet family during Tet.

One of my best childhood memories of Tet was the day when everyone in my 3-generation family gathered to wrap chung cakes, and then cooked them in a big pot on a temporarily-made wood-fire stove on a cold winter night.

Superstitions and beliefs surrounding food also play an important role in shaping the Lunar New Year menu of Vietnamese people. Certain foods are considered a symbol of bad luck, such as squid and duck in the North.

Tet Holiday Recipes

Below is the list of my most favorite recipes for Lunar New Year celebration. Many of them are classic Tet food and some are more modern dishes served on special occasions. I will begin with the traditional dishes, followed by the modern ones.

1. Green Sticky Rice Cake (Bánh Chưng)

This is the most essential savory dish for traditional Tet celebration. There are two versions of this green rice cake, both of which are made from similar ingredients but have different shape. In the North, the cake has a square shape, representing the Earth, while it has a cylindrical shape in the South. We call the Northern cake bánh chưng and the Southern one bánh tét.

The cake is good for a week at room temperature (if the weather is not hot), and it can be eaten warm or fried. Nowadays, it is very common to refrigerate the cakes, or cut them into halves or quarters and then freeze.

Square Sticky Rice Cake is an important component in Vietnamese Lunar New Year Feast.
Vietnamese Square Sticky Rice Cake (Banh Chung or Chung cake) is a must-have in the Lunar New Year celebration of Vietnam. Despite being made from simple ingredients, this traditional cake tastes wonderful and holds beautiful cultural meaning in it.
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2. Fried Spring Rolls (Nem Rán/Chả Giò)

Fried spring roll is a popular dish in the Lunar New Year feasts in the North. In my family, it is almost always the first thing to be eaten in the feast because it tastes best when still crispy and hot.

a plate of crispy fried spring rolls
Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls are delicious with crispy exterior and flavorful filling. This dish is a must in any traditional Vietnamese banquets or celebrations. Learn the authentic way to make them as well as tips to ensure they turn out golden and crispy.
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3. Caramelized Pork Belly (Thịt Kho)

Southern people love to cook this dish for Tet. A big batch can be prepared and preserved for several days even in hot weather in the South. Some families like to make the dish with duck eggs instead of chicken eggs.

a plate of Vietnamese caramelized pork belly and eggs
Vietnamese caramelized pork belly with eggs (thit kho tau) is a beloved comfort food of Viet families. Pork belly is gently braised until it has a beautiful caramel color and becomes so flavorful and tender.
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4. Red Sticky Rice (Xôi Gấc)

This dish has a vibrant red color which symbolizes good luck in Vietnamese tradition. It is also delicious and a great alternative when people want to have a break from banh chung during Tet holiday.

a plate of Vietnamese red sticky rice (xoi gac)
Vietnamese Red Sticky Rice (Xôi Gấc) is a traditional dish usually served at special occasions such as Lunar New Year (Tết). Learn how to make it and serve it in this post.
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5. Mung Bean Coated Sticky Rice (Xôi Vò)

Xôi vò is soft-chewy golden sticky rice which is coated with mung bean that has been steamed and processed into meal. Traditional Vietnamese banquets usually have a sticky rice dish and this dish is one of those that are often prepared for special occasions.

a plate of Vietnamese mung bean sticky rice (xoi vo)
Xoi Vo (Vietnamese Mung Bean Coated Sticky Rice) is one of the classic dishes of Hanoi. The mung bean coating gives the sticky rice hearty and wholesome flavors.
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6. Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Khổ Qua)

In the Southern part of the country, this stuffed bitter melon soup is a must in the Vietnamese New Year feast. Bitter melon is called “khổ qua“ in Vietnamese, which means bitter living condition has gone away. I think by eating this dish for Tet, people wish all hardships in life will go away and the new year will be full of happiness.

a bowl of Vietnamese bitter melon soup
Vietnamese Bitter Melon Soup features bitter melon stuffed with ground pork mixture in a clear and savory broth. This is a traditional dish of Southern Vietnamese cuisine.
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7. Chicken Glass Noodle Soup (Miến Gà)

Traditionally, when Viet cooks poach a chicken, the poaching liquid will often be utilized to make this chicken glass noodle soup. It is delicious with complex savory broth and slippery noodles.

a bowl of Vietnamese chicken glass noodle soup with bamboo shoots
Mien Ga (Chicken Glass Noodle Soup) is one of the dishes served at traditional Vietnamese feasts or banquets. Since the soup is so tasty and easy to make, you can also enjoy it all year round. I also include instructions to make the variation with dried bamboo shoots at the end of the recipe card.
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8. Crab Glass Noodle Stir-fry (Miến Xào Cua)

This stir-fried glass noodles with crab meat is popular in seaside cities like my hometown. It has always been included in my family’s banquets for years, and has always been my favorite.

a bowl of Vietnamese crab cellophane noodles stir-fry (mien xao cua)
Mien Xao Cua (Crab Cellophane Noodles Stir-fry) is a traditional Vietnamese dish. It is incredibly delicious with the natural sweetness of crab meat, soft translucent glass noodles, crunchy vegetables, and refreshing lime fish sauce dressing.
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9. Braised Abalone and Broccoli in Oyster Sauce

Abalone is considered a premium ingredient in Vietnam and many other Asian countries. This braised abalone in oyster sauce is an excellent dish for Lunar New Year celebration. We call it “bào ngư sốt dầu hào”.

a plate of braised abalone and broccoli in oyster sauce
Braised Abalone and Broccoli in Oyster Sauce is an excellent dish for special occasions. The abalone is braised until tender and then coated with a flavorful savory sauce.
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10. Steamed Fish (Cá Hấp)

This dish is a popular item in Chinese New Year dinner, because its name is similar to abundance in Chinese. It is however not as common in Vietnamese New Year, perhaps because the fresh fish supplies are limited when most restaurants and markets are close in Tet holidays. Nevertheless, steamed fish is always a well-loved dish in Vietnamese banquets.

a steamed fish fillet with soy sauce, ginger, scallion, onion and carrot
Steamed Fish with Ginger, Scallion and Soy Sauce is a restaurant-quality dish you can easily cook at home in just 30 minutes. Serve this light yet flavorful dish with rice for a healthy and delicious meal.
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11. Black Pepper Beef (Bò Sốt Tiêu Đen)

Not exactly a traditional dish for Tet celebration, but this delicious beef in black pepper sauce is often served in wedding banquets or special occasions. This quick and easy dish will certainly impress your family and guests.

a plate of black pepper beef
Beef in Black Pepper Sauce features juicy beef slices and crisp veggies in a savory and peppery sauce. This delicious beef stir-fry can be made quickly in just one pan.
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12. Lemongrass Roast Chicken

Every Tet feast has a poached chicken dish. If you want something different this year, roast the chicken in your oven instead. This lemongrass roast chicken takes very little time to prepare. The roasting process not only crisps up the skin but also ensures that the meat remains succulent and tender.

a lemongrass roast chicken on a baking sheet
Vietnamese Lemongrass Roast Chicken features juicy and fragrant chicken with golden and crisp skin. It is great for everyday meals as well as special holiday dinners.
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13. Stir-fried Crab with Ginger and Scallion (Cua Xào Hành Gừng)

Stir-fried crab with ginger and scallion is a restaurant-style dish that can be made at home for your Lunar New Year feasts. Crab is also considered a premium ingredients, so its inclusion in a feast signifies abundance and prosperity. The dish also looks impressive with vibrant colors, adding to the festivity of the occasion.

a plate of stir-fried crabs with scallion and ginger.
Stir-fried Crab with Ginger and Scallion (Cua Xao Hanh Gung) is a popular dish at seafood restaurants in Vietnam. The dish is well-loved for its aromatic and flavorful profile. You can easily make this restaurant-quality dish at home and impress everyone.
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14. Shrimp on Sugarcane (Chạo Tôm)

Chao tom is a popular appetizer in Vietnamese banquets. Not a traditional choice, but I don’t see why we can’t include it in our modern Vietnamese New Year feast. Here’s a fun fact though: some people in Southern Vietnam avoid eating shrimp during Tet because shrimp swim backward, so eating them may not bring good luck for the new year. People don’t have this belief in the North.

Vietnamese Shrimp Sticks on a serving plate
Vietnamese Shrimp on Sticks (Chao Tom) consists of flavorful shrimp mousse wrapped around lemongrass or sugarcane sticks. It is a tasty appetizer for daily meals or parties.
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15. Shrimp in Salted Egg Sauce (Tôm Sốt Trứng Muối)

This shrimp in salted egg sauce is another delectable restaurant-style dish that is perfectly suited for this occasion. The golden color of the sauce will make your new year feast look even more extravagant.

a plate of shrimp with salted egg yolk sauce.
Shrimp in salted egg yolk sauce (tôm sốt trứng muối) combines the rich taste of salted egg yolks with the delicate and succulent texture of shrimp. This restaurant-style dish can be cooked at home, making it an excellent choice for special occasions.
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16. Fresh Spring Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn)

These rolls are beautiful to look at and great as refreshing appetizers. They will be a nice change after your family is tired of other heavy dishes in the New Year feast.

Vietnamese fresh spring rolls on a serving plate with two types of sauces
Traditional Vietnamese fresh spring rolls (goi cuon) consist of pork, shrimp, lettuce and herbs wrapped in soft chewy rice paper wrappers. Serve them as a refreshing and tasty appetizer and impress your guests.
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17. Lotus Root Soup with Pork Ribs (Canh Sườn Củ Sen)

This lotus root with pork rib soup is is not only flavorful but also filling and packed with nutrients. Lunar New Year often falls in the colder months, and a warm, comforting soup like this is perfect for gathering family members around the table.

a bowl of lotus root and pork rib soup
This lotus root soup with pork rib is a comforting and nourishing soup for family dinners. The ribs are tender while the broth has a delicate sweet-savory flavor.
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18. Combination Noodle Soup (Bún Thang)

This dish was invented by Northern Viet families a long time ago as a way to turn left-over food in Tet holidays into a delicious bowl of noodle soup. Ingredients are julienned thinly, which makes the bowl not only beautiful but also less heavy than other dishes in Tet feasts.

a bowl of Bun Thang Hanoi with shredded chicken, egg strips, shrimp floss, ham and scallions
Vietnamese Bun thang (Hanoi rice vermicelli noodles with chicken, eggs and pork) is a sophisticated Northern Vietnamese noodle soup with many layers of flavors and delicious toppings. It is a must-try dish for anyone who wants to explore the true taste of Hanoi cuisine.
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19. Mung Bean Pudding

This mung bean sweet soup has a light flavor to counterbalance the heaviness of many savory dishes in the Vietnamese New Year feast.

Vietnamese Mung Bean Pudding (Che do xanh, che hoa cau)
Vietnamese Mung Bean Pudding (Che Do Xanh) is one of the classic sweet dessert soups. This healthy and tasty dessert has the right amount of sweetness and richness. The best part is you can make it with a pressure cooker in 15-20 minutes.
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New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.

This post first appeared on Delightful Plate in February 2021. It has been updated with additional recipes.

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