Monday, January 26, 2009

Chuc mung (bean) nam moi!

That's my attempt at a bilingual pun. Chuc mung nam moi means "happy New Year" in Vietnamese, and today is the start of the lunar new year, known as Tet in Vietnam. My mom just gave me some banh chung, the savory sticky rice cake wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with pork and mung beans whose taste reminds us that the new year has arrived (though maybe they should be using ox tail this year in honor of the Year of the Ox). Here, my banh chung stands flanked by an envelope full of crisp new bills—my li xi ("lee see") lucky money—ginger candy, and some red-dyed pumpkin seeds. And that's my cat Osiris (aka ODB, Dirt McGirt, Big Baby Jesus) being really creepy in the background.




Mung beans aren't so weird to me, since I grew up eating Asian desserts made with the yellow bean paste and always welcome a handful of bean sprouts to freshen up soups like pho and canh chua. At the same time, I've never actually tried to make the paste myself and never even knew the beans were green on the outside. There are certain foods that we've eaten since childhood that seem to arrive magically on our plates in a way we never question. Perhaps a sign of adulthood is realizing that we too can conjure these foods directly from their unprocessed form. Does that mean I lost my innocence the first time I made mac 'n' cheese not from the box? Maybe I should let the mystery of the banh chung keep a little while longer, at least until I'm over 30...

So, happy New Year to you. Get yourself some banh chung at your local Vietnamese sandwich shop, then fry it to a crisp in a pan and eat dipped in sugar or soy sauce. And if you're the ambitious, know-it-all, cook-it-all type, then you can learn more about banh chung making here. And watch this video, which has an amazing soundtrack:

2 comments:

stephenjdodson said...

Hey, why didn't I get any love from mom? No food or money?

...

Can I have some of yours?

katrina d. said...

No. And you're not invited to my birthday party. Only the stephen dodson who took your gmail address who I accidentally send emails to from time to time.