Out goes Mardi Gras and in comes Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, with its 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. It's also a chance to sample Vietnamese delicacies, and while spring rolls, banh mi and (yes) different varieties of pho will be available in celebration of the Year of the Goat, festival attendees should look beyond the familiar.
Start with a goat dish like lau de (a spicy, hearty goat hot pot made with fresh, aromatic herbs and noodles. 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, fried banana fritters (chuoi chien) are cooked in giant cauldrons of bubbling oil and prove to be an ideal crispy, melt-in-your-mouth end to a meal.