As I said, the party was to celebrate the 1st month’s birthday of Kim Lien’s sister’s (Kim Xuyen) fourth daughter, Candy (Yen). Therefore the dishes have significant meanings.
The pig symbolizes prosperity.
The other celebratory dishes are 12 in number. This signifies that the baby will have 12 mothers, a good sign. There are always only 12 dishes, no more and no less. There were about twenty guests and too much food, so the leftoversw were put in take home packages for each family. Only the immediate family was at this party–mother, two brothers, and 3 of the 4 sisters and one sister-in-law, plus many children.
The orange/red squares of rice are called xôi gấc (pron: soy gak). They are a little bit sweet, and are sticky rice colored with turmeric. Tasty and healthy.
The balls are called chè trôi nư´ơc (pronounced: chay troy nuc). They are rice flour with sweet “green bean”* paste inside, covered with sugar water. Very delicious if you like sweets, and a special dish for special occasions.
*The ‘green beans’ are not string beans, but little beans like mung beans or dried peas. They are cooked till soft and then ground into a paste and sweetened with sugar. They appear as fillings in many pastries here and are very delicious as well as healthy.
The dishes in the background are hard boiled eggs, salty overcooked (I like meat medium rare) meat, and some condiments. The cake was big enough for everyone to enjoy, and is placed atop it’s box for display.
During the meal big plates of whole boiled shrimp (seasoned, of course) and plates of thickly sliced boiled beef were served, along with 3 other types of rice and a few vegetable dishes. The beef was very fine quality but the preparation was not for a western palate unless you are a strict observer of Kashruth. The pig was SO delicious that everything else, even the huge shrimp which my wife graciously peeled for me, was incidental. The free-flowing beer and Bailey’s Irish Cream lent a celebratory air to everything.
Everyone got to take a lot of food home, and a great time was had by all. The birthday girl had greeted everyone when we arrived, and was so tired (EVERYONE has to hold the baby!) that she slept through the entire party.