Living Viet

Clay models imitate Vietnamese traditional feasts

Vietnam traditional feasts are shown through life-sized models made from clay by Nguyen Tan Dat in Ho Chi Minh City.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnamese living overseas could not return home for Tet holiday. Some of them asked Nguyen Tan Dat to make models of Vietnamese traditional Tet dishes from clay and deliver them to foreign countries that help them teach their children about Tet and keep the traditional cultural traits.

Dat spent time learning the culture, history and typical dishes of each region. It took him over one month to finish three trays of traditional Tet dishes which reflect cultures of the northern, central and southern regions of the S-shaped country.

A Vietnamese traditional meal with typical dishes. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Boiled chicken. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Seafood noodle soup. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

“Bun oc” (snail noodle soup). Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Banh canh (thick noodle soup). Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

Tet cake. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

“Bun doc mung” (Rice noodle-taro soup). Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Braised pork with eggs. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

Bitter melon soup. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

Jelly braised pork. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

rab noodle soup. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP 

Fermented meat from Binh Dinh province. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

Dried fish, a specialty of the southwest region. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

A typical Tet meal in the north consists of dishes like boiled chicken with lime leaves, banh chung (glutinous rice cake), gio lua (Vietnamese sausage) and thit dong (jellied pork). A colorful meal from the central region is made special with banh tet (elongated rice cake), boiled pork with sour pickled shrimp, Tre (fermented pork and pig's skin wrapped in straw) and nem chua (fermented pork) while a sunny Tet in the south has banh tet, caramelized pork with duck eggs and pickled bean sprouts.

To make the models of Vietnamese traditional feasts, Dat uses the clay of Vietnam in making the models because of its suitable price and quality. He understands the nature of the clay to create special effects for each model and he mixes colors naturally. He said that the craft is not very hard but it requires skillfulness and meticulosity.

Besides making the traditional Tet dishes of the three regions, Dat wants to make models of other dishes. Dat will combine the models with other handicraft products to introduce the Vietnamese culture to foreign friends.

Shaping the models. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Clay. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

Color powder for painting on the models. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

Molding clay. Photo: Thong Hai/VNP

Painting on the models. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

By Thong Hai        Translated by Nguyen Tuoi

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