The Gastronomy of Ben Tre

Common dishes

The common dishes here are those popular among farmers as well as urbaners. As the general socio-economic life has grown to a higher level, there would certainly be extended exchanges on various areas of life, and thus the differential line between urban and rural living standards have also been blurred.

In general, eating practices in Ben Tre are not different much from those in other provinces in the Mekong Delta region. They are those same practices and experiences brought in by old time settlers from the Middle and the North of the country for years long in the past. These people, influenced by the Chinese culture, knew how to prepare their dishes in the close interrelationship between nutrition, medicine and the human physiological properties, to utilize the abundant resources bestowed by Mother Nature and the environmental advantages of the land for tasty, healthy and Yang-Yin harmonizing dishes of food in their daily life.

Seasonal Dishes

Ben Tre has its own seasonal delicious couisines based on local animal and herb species. These include rural and ritual diets that suit every appetite. For example, anabas cooked in fish-sauce decorated with some black pepper or spicy herbs is the prime dish of September and October; and recipes with fresh-water fat crab and soft-shelled crab are most delicious from July to September. Rainy season is the reproductive time for frogs, and this is also the season for having fried frog and a lot of other recipes. Besides, Ben Tre has a variety of fishes and birds that can be used very much in local as well as Western couisines such as fry, grill, stew, simmer, boil, etc, accompanied by myriads of home-grown herbs and vegetables to make eaters enjoy their meal greatly.

Guest Meals

Just like other parts of Viet Nam, the people in Ben Tre is well-known with hospitality, kind-heartedness and friendliness. They still retain the traditional values that built mainly on good relationship between people.

As a component of the culture, guest meals in Ben Tre are generally comprised of home-grown and home-made items such as crayfish grilled on coconut-shell charcoal, fat crab boiled in coconut milk, sweet-sour soup with fresh-water fish, pork cooked in fish sauce, roasted pork, etc. The very characteristic of this kind of eating is that it is not confined to any behavioural requirements, and both the guest and the host can freely enjoy their own appetite. The most important elements in these meals are the hospitable treatment, clean and fine eatery items, as well as good cooking and serving.

The Gastronomy on Festivals and Holidays

During the old time, dishes are laid on a multilayer tray to serve in an order from top to bottom, with each layer bearing a specific group of dishes.

Now, this tray is almost no longer used in holiday and festival parties. Instead, dishes are arranged on a rectangular table or a plank bed covered with flower-decorated, and eaters sit cross-legged all around and serve themselves whatever they like.

For festivals and holidays, dishes include those same in guest meals, but specially prepared and solemnly decorated in order to make it distrinct from normal way of eating. And, how many dishes and how special the dishes are may also depends on how rich and poor the host is and whether it is a good crop harvest or not.

For Vietnamese, Tet is the most important holiday of the year, and they also prepared their culinary very specially on this occasion. On Tet Holiday, or the Lunar New Year, friends and relatives come around to toast and exchange the best and luckiest wishes for the whole new year. So, every household prepares at least one large pan of Chinese recipe of simmered pork and eggs called "thit kho Tau" (Chinese pork stew), some jam, sticky-rice cakes called "banh tet" (the Cake of Tet, eaten with pickled scallion heads), a couple of water melons, and pickled vegetables. Many households may have precious dishes depending on their financial state. On the 3rd Day of Tet comes the rite of "Ra mat ong ba" (Ancestors Revisit) with chicken, chiefly the male ones, tossed in salad. Today, simple way of eating on Tet Holiday is encouraged in efforts to fight wasteful partying.

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