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Archive for September, 2013

In the year gone by, PHO was sold by roaming street vendors. A PHO vendor carried a shoulder pole with two heavy baskets. One side held the pot of broth over charcoal and the other side held a tiny cupboard with two drawers. The top drawer held bowls and plates and the lower drawer held a dish washing tub. Bunches of spring onion and poached of beef hung above the pot of boiling broth.

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Making the broth is the key part of cooking this Hanoi delicacy. After being washed beef bones are put into a pot of cold water. The boiled water is then poured off and fresh water is added, boiled and retained. Ginger and grilled onions are added. After the water is rough to a boil, the heat must be reduced and bubbles extracted. More cold water is added and more froth is removed to purify the water. The broth’s flavor depends greatly on what spices are added. Chefs keep their recipes a secret in order to give their restaurant an edge.

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PHO is a culinary essence that reveals the rich culture of this thousand year old capital

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The PHO noodles must be carefully selected. The rice used to make PHO noodles should be high quality to ensure that the noodles are soft and white. The best onion and cilantro are said to come from Lang village (a famous one which provides many kind of raw vegetables and herbs for Hanoi). Good Hanoi PHO should have sweet and clear broth, moist beef, sticky and soft noodles and fresh herbs. The noodles are spread around the boil and thinly sliced beef is added, along with spring onions, cilantro, sliced yellow ginger and tiny slices of bright red chili. The colors create a tantalizing picture. All five senses are awakened.

Many visitors to Vietnam  want to try an authentic bowl of PHO, but it should be in HANOI where is developing and integrating with the rest of the world, many of its traditions remain intact.

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You are travelling in Vietnam during the middle of eighth lunar month? You are lucky enough to enjoy the most colorful festival of the year – Trung Thu or known as Mid Autumn Festival!

Trung Thu is the biggest festival in Autumn, which is celebrated on 15th of eighth lunar month (flexible in middle Sep to early Oct). The story saying that in this night, we can see the moon clearest, biggest; and it’s time for family, friends to gather after the harvest and pray for the next successful crops. In a way, it’s considered as Thanksgiving in many Western countries.

But if you ask me “What’s the meaning of Mid Autumn Festival?” My answer would be: “It’s children festival and it’s the time for us – the adults to listen to the children laughing”. On this day, children are expected to receive traditional gifts from parents (lanterns, toys, moon cake…).  Every family have a small party with fruits, moon cakes, the children in a neighborhood go from houses to houses and enjoy the party together. In the evening of Trung Thu, dragon dancing parade around the neighborhood in exciting beat of drum and cymbals, followed by the children with their lanterns. The parade ends with a children party in communal hall.

A Trung Thu party with Dragon Dancing

Trung Thu party with Dragon Dancing

You might have your best picture if your trip fall about 1 week before and during the Mid Autumn Festival. Colorful lanterns, toys brighten up the streets. Every kid would love to have a lantern on this day and the lantern has become the most typical symbol of the festival. The traditional lantern is made of colorful paper and bamboo sticks with a candle at center.

You can easily see five point star lantern – the most classic toy

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Five point star lantern

Or with modern cartoon characters

Lantern

Cartoon lanterns

Banh Trung Thu – or Moon Cake has never been missed in Trung Thu Festival, like Banh Chung in Tet,  champagne in New Year or roasted turkey in Christmas. The shops start selling Moon Cake a month in advance. Moon Cake is also used as a gift to friends, family and even to business partners.

Moon Cake at Indochina Voyages Office. Thanks to Indochina Junk, King Express Train and Mr. Tim Lee

Moon Cake at Indochina Voyages Office. Thanks to Indochina Junk, King Express and Mr. Tim Lee

For the one who is planing for the next trip, you might question yourself “Should I visit Vietnam during this time”? Definitely YES! The temperature is cooler, less rain while hotels, cruises and airlines still running very good deals! Furthermore, you will have chance to enjoy the spirit of Trung Thu festival in every corner  of the street, in every family. Do not forget to buy a Moon Cake, enjoy it with Vietnamese tea and also spend the evening joining the children parade. Happy travelling!!!

Tips:

Trung Thu ( Mid Autumn Festival) in 2013: 19 September 2013

Trung Thu ( Mid Autumn Festival) in 2014: 8 September 2014

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