Tet celebration serves up ample Vietnamese food in New Orleans East

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While it might be difficult right now to imagine life after Mardi Gras 2015, for better or worse the day is rapidly approaching. Fortunately, there's more to celebrate with the arrival of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, and accompanying annual celebration at Mary Queen of Vietnam Church (14001 Dwyer Blvd.) in New Orleans East.

Held Feb. 20-22, the celebration offers a wide range of performances, games, raffles and beyond for the whole family. Most important? It's the one weekend a year to sample Vietnamese delicacies not typical found on a menu next to pho .

While spring rolls, banh mi, Vietnamese egg rolls and (yes) different varieties of pho will be available in celebration of the Year of the Goat, festival attendees should look beyond the familiar.

Starting off your culinary excursions with a goat dish like lau de (a spicy, hearty goat hot pot made with fresh, aromatic herbs and noodles) would be an appropriate kick off for 2015. Hot vit lon (boiled, "half-hatched" duck eggs), bahn day (sticky rice cakes) and banh chung (square pouches of sticky rice with mung bean and meat wrapped in banana leaves) are snack-sized options for those intent on pacing themselves. My favorite offering each year is tiet canh, a dish made out of goat (or duck) blood and pieces of gizzard or liver topped with chilies, fish sauce, herbs and a squeeze of lemon.

On the sweet side of things, fried banana fritters (chuoi chien) are cooked up in giant cauldrons of bubbling oil and prove to be an ideal crispy, melt-in-your-mouth end to a meal.

WHAT: Versailles Vietnamese New Year Festival
WHERE: Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, 14001 Dwyer Blvd.
WHEN: 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Feb. 20; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Feb. 21 & 22 (cash only)


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