ngày giỗ bà ngoại- grandmother’s death anniversary dinner
Each year on 21 January of the Lunar calendar we celebrate my maternal grandmother’s death anniversary. This year in the Gregorian calendar the date is converted to 2 January 2013.
My grandmother past away 48 years ago when my own mother was only 6 years old. One day my grandmother went out into the forest to collect wood as she normally did- but that day she didn’t return home. My worried grandfather searched for her with no luck. It was believed she was taken away for questioning by the communist soldiers, which was common at the time in Vietnam. Nobody heard from her, she was missing for over 20 days. Until one day my grandfather eventually found her body in the forest, along with the lighter he gave her for protection from the tigers.
Every year our family would remember my grandmother by cooking a special dinner on ngày giỗ bà ngoại- grandmother’s death anniversary. In the early years mum would create an elaborate feast where she would be cooking for days but now she keeps it simple and only cooks a few dishes. Over the last few years we added two more anniversary dinners because both my grandfathers have passed. So now we hold 3 anniversary dinners a year, which is common practice for many Vietnamese families.
There are many variations and rituals associated with the anniversary day and practices will vary from family to family. Religion dictates many of the rituals and practices. Many Vietnamese families practice honouring their ancestors with altars in their homes with pictures of the deceased with candles and incense. The food would be placed on the altar and offered to the ancestors first, once prayers and bowing has been carried out, the eating would begin. My parents do not practice this tradition because of their religious beliefs in Christianity.
On the menu this year was Canh Chua hot-pot and Goi Ca, both with Snapper fish that my dad had caught.
Canh Chua is a tamarind base soup with Asian greens such as elephant ears stems, beanshoots, okra, water spinach and is garnished with rice paddy herb.
The Goi Ca is a ceviche style salad. The snapper was a dressed in lemon juice and topped with red onion, apple, fresh herbs and crushed peanuts. The salad was eaten with sesame rice crackers and nuoc mam cham.
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