Published on Friday, 13 October 2017 14:20
Written by Dana Filek-Gibson. Illustration by Andy Tran.
Every culture has its own customs, superstitions and traditions, some of which are so time-honored that even their strictest followers aren’t really clear on where the etiquette comes from. Vietnam certainly has its fair share of food-related rules, borne out of good manners and, occasionally, superstition. While you could probably write a book on the full list of Vietnamese food superstitions, here are just a few taboos and the reasons behind them.
Don’t knock your chopsticks on your bowl.
There are several rules around chopsticks etiquette: don’t stick your utensils upright in your bowl like incense sticks, for instance. Equally important: don’t knock your chopsticks on your bowl unless you want to summon hungry ghosts to the table, an event which will not go over well with your living dinner guests.
Bowls of rice: Betcha can’t have just one.
But seriously, you shouldn’t: a single bowl of rice is meant for the dead. To avoid any bad vibes, you’ll need to serve at least two bowls of rice at a meal.
Cure your bad luck with a duck fetus…or three.
Things not going your way? You may have hit a bout of bad luck. But fear not: there is a way to turn your misfortune into good luck through the power of hột vịt lộn. In Vietnamese, the word lộn means reverse; the theory goes that eating hột vịt lộn can thus reverse bad luck. But make sure you stick to odd numbers; two eggs will turn your luck from bad to good to bad again.
Keep your fish right-side up.
We’ve all been there: you’re tucking into a delicious whole fish and everyone at the table has picked away the meat on the top side, so someone uses their chopsticks to flip the fish over and continue feasting on the other side. This, however, is bad luck in on-the-water communities: flipping the fish has the same connotation as capsizing a boat. Instead, move the bones out of the way and keep that fish right-side up.
Whatever you do, do NOT waste rice.
We’re not really sure about the origin of this one, but we’ve heard tell of more than a few grandmas who use this line: for every grain of rice you waste, you will be forced to eat 10 maggots when you go to hell. And you will go to hell: clearly, wasting food is no small matter in Vietnam.
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