Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!
That’s right, it’s Tết–the Vietnamese Lunar New Year! For Vietnamese folks, we are welcoming in the Year of the Cat. For our Chinese neighbors, it’s the Year of the Rabbit.
There are so many customs and traditions that go along with Tết–from making sure your house/home is clean, offering ancestral prayers and thanks, eating delicious food, playing games like bầu cua cá cọp, going to festivals and my personal favorite—getting lì xì (red envelopes of money to bring luck and good fortune).
Tết is a multiple day celebration—which means food galore! Bánh chưng (sticky rice cakes filled with meats, mung beans, etc.), Xôi (savory or sweet glutinous rice), Măng khô (braised bamboo shoots), and all sorts of Mứt (preserved/candied vegetables and fruits).
And although the trays of Mứt always had a wide variety of fruits, veggies, & nuts to choose from (coconut, lotus seeds, persimmons, mandarins, etc.), my favorite was Mứt Gừng —candied or crystallized ginger which my grandmother made all of the time.
The thin slices of candied ginger are not only yummy but they can be used for health ailments too. Nausea or motion sickness can often be curtailed by chewing/sucking on Mứt Gừng and next time you have a cough, forgo the drops and grab a bag of Mứt Gừng instead. You can also filter the boiling water used to cook the ginger into a calming ginger tea. All natural! And as for baking, I’ve also used this Candied Ginger in my Scones and to top Spiced Cupcakes. So many options!
I want to give a big THANKS to my cousin An for giving me a tutorial on Mứt Gừng—the woman even took step by step pics on her phone for me. Now that’s a trooper—-although I’m not sure how she’ll feel about me adding the lemon zest.
So allow me to wish you all an extremely happy, prosperous, and healthy New Year!
Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!
Mứt Gừng (Vietnamese Candied Ginger)
Makes approximately one pound
1 Pound Fresh Ginger
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice, divided
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Zest
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Fill a large bowl with cold water and add 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Peel the ginger, removing any blemishes from the root and then place in the bowl of water until all pieces have been peeled. Using a mandoline with its thinnest plate, slice the ginger roots. Place the ginger slices in the bowl of water until all have been cut.
Fill a large pot with water and the rest of the lemon juice. Transfer the ginger slices to the pot and bring to a boil. While the ginger is boiling, spray two cooling racks with nonstick spray and place them on cookie sheets that have been lined with foil. Cook the ginger for 25 minutes, skimming off any impurities that may build up. Drain the slices in a colander and flush with cool tap water. Rinse the ginger 2 or 3 times and shake off excess water. Use paper towels to dry the ginger slices off well.
In a large pan over medium-low heat, add the ginger slices with sugar. Use chopsticks to coat the slices with sugar. Continue to stir as the sugar begins to melt and bubble. Stir in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Continue cooking and stirring the ginger until the liquid has evaporated and the sugar has crystallized onto the slices. This process takes about 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat and transfer the slices to the cooling racks. Be sure to spread the slices into one even layer—flatten out any slices that may have folded over or curled up. Allow an hour for the slices to completely dry. Store in Ziploc bags or other airtight containers.