Doan Ngo Festival
Tet Doan ngo : This is the middle year festival for the prevention of disease and ward off evil spirits (the day of changing weather from spring to summer, this is the time easy to get pathogen). On the day of “killing insects”, every one has to get up early, eat fermented sticky and fruits. The worshipping is held at noon, hour of Ngo.
Tet Doan Ngo, or Tet Giet Sau Bo (Killing the Inner Insect Festival) comes on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month every year. The fermented sticky rice ‘Insect Killing Wine’ (ruou nep) the main treat of the day, one that has some complex reference to an inner bug that needs exterminating.
To make the wine, the sticky rice is boiled and, after it cools, it is mixed with brewers yeast. Fermented for two or three days, it becomes a sweet, thick liquid.
It is believed that ruou nep kills all off any parasites in the body. Adults and kids alike eat ruou nep, but adults are more inclined to take its curing effects with a grain of salt. Nobody knows exactly why Vietnamese people have this habit, but it’s often said, “Old people think it’s a good idea”.
The myth behind
Old ladies still tell a tale of two snakes Thanh Xa (the Blue Snake) and Bach Xa (the White Snake) to trace back to the origin of ruou nep.
A long time ago, there were two orphan brothers living together in a small village. They were popular among the locals for their intelligence and kindness.
Thanh Xa and Bach Xa were two snakes, which after long lives, turned into spirits. The snakes fell in love with the brothers and transformed themselves into beautiful ladies to charm the men.
The brothers soon were attracted to the snakes, and they soon became an extended family. Thanh Xa got married the older brother and Bach Xa the younger.
They live happily together, but the men grew unhealthy with each passing day, they grew scared of daylight and lived in festering darkness.
Locals suspected the presence of a bad spirit, and luckily one day, a Taoist hermit passed through the village. The locals told him of the men’s affliction, and he conducted some spirit type tests and confirmed that the men’s house had a case of the evils.
The hermit brewed a wine potion, and told the locals to feed it to the men. The brothers must eat the potion’s solids and liquids in the early morning of the next fifth day of the fifth lunar calendar.
As soon as the men tucked into their special breakfast, their wives were revealed as the snakes they were, before disappearing in a puff of smoke, freeing the brothers.
Since that day, people have eaten ruou nep on Killing the Insect Day, in the hope of driving away bad spirits.
Making ruou nep is not exactly difficult. But it is a process that takes time and some elbow grease.
Rice picked from a paddy just reaped is the best. It must be dried and pounded carefully to save the part of the rice richest in nutrients.
The rice is steamed for about 30 minutes and washed in cool water, before being steamed again to make it as soft as possible. It is then left a long time to cool. The cooler, the better, as it prevents any sour taste in the pudding.
The cooled rice is mixed with yeast, before being left for two or three days to ferment, depending on the weather.
Ruou nep fermentation and flavour kits include 13 medicinal herbs and rice flour. The most popular mixes hail from Bac Ninh Province, about 40km north of Hanoi.
Little to no research has been done on the potion’s curative effects, but the habit and a long-held trust in such potions still exist. People treat families and friends to the pudding at Tet Doan Ngo, as an observance more than a cure.