Dining with Asian Food & Wine

The Lantern Festival and Vietnam’s Perfume Pagoda Festival


Ronald Jan, M.D.


February 15, 2022 marks the 15th day of the first lunar month of 2022 and the end of the celebration of the New Year with the Lantern Festival in China and a day for the young people to find romance and begin courtship. On the same day in Vietnam similar romantic themes play out…. but also marks the beginning of the “Perfume Pagoda Festival” which celebrates the site where Buddha (Sakyamuni) washed himself. (Photo from IIove-vietnam.blogspot.com) The Pagoda also displays a footprint of Quan An (= Chinese Guanyin). While we cannot all go to the Perfume Pagoda in Vietnam, we can enjoy Vietnamese food and celebrate the occasion. Quan Nem Ninh Hoa is just such a restaurant in Sacramento. Their signature dish is Nem Cuon which literally means “meat roll,” a rice paper wrap of meat (chicken, pork, or shrimp) and fresh vegetables.

Vietnamese dish nem cuon at Quan Nem Ninh Hoa Restaurant

Photo of Nem Cuon at Quan Nem Ninh Hoa Restaurant (Courtesy of Ronald Jan, M.D.)

The freshness of the vegetables is the key. Everyday Sonny Nguyen, owner, and manager, goes to the market to select the best fresh produce—cilantro, mint, green leaf lettuce, Vietnamese coriander, cucumber, and then combines these fresh ingredients with pickled Daikon carrots and crushed egg roll wrap for texture. These fresh vegetables are combined with the choice of meat into a roll wrapped with rice paper…then with each bite the roll is dipped into a wonderful special home-made fish sauce which somehow loses its “fishiness” in its cooked preparation. The special sauce presents elements of sweetness with sweet rice pieces in just the right combination and if desired one can add a bit of spicy hot sauce also made special at the restaurant. The result: a wonderful mouthfeel of fresh vegetables garnished with some meat dipped into a savory sauce.

Wine with Vietnamese Food

Photo of 2019 Riesling from 3 Wine Company (Courtesy of Ronald Jan, M.D.)

The freshness of the vegetables is enhanced by 3 Wine Company’s 2019 Riesling’s acidity. The wonderful aroma of the vegetables with the cooked meat is balanced with the floral bouquet of the Riesling. And the sweetness of the sauce is matched with the small amount of residual sugar in the Riesling.

The 15th day of the New Year marks the end of celebration and the beginning of the New Year and a wonderfully romantic day celebrated in Vietnam and China…What a wonderful way to begin the New Year!

January 152022 Photo

Photo of Vietnam’s Romance (Taken from blogspot.com)

Chinas Lantern Festival

China’s Lantern Festival (Photo from www.storyblocks.com)

About the author: Dr. Ronald G. Jan who specializes in Vascular Surgery is a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of California at Davis School of Medicine. As a hobby, he holds WSET level 3 certification in wines and has been writing and publishing wine commentaries.



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