Food plays a big role in a Vietnamese funeral. To prepare the deceased for the journey, at the wake the mouth is kept open so visitors can drop in grains of rice. Mourners bring a bowl of rice to place on top of the coffin so that by the end of the wake, there will be so much weight on top that the devil will not be able to get into the coffin. On the 49th and 100th days after the death, the family gathers to remember the deceased with a special meal; bun ho often fits the bill.
In the book Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs From Around the World learn how 75 different cultures from various countries and religions around the world use food in conjunction with death in ritualistic, symbolic, and even nutritious ways.
- 6 Ounces rice noodles
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 2 inches of lemongrass root, thinly sliced
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 1 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Tablespoons nuoc mam (fish sauce)
- 1 Pinch of sugar
- 1 Pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons peanut oil
- 1/2 Cup mung bean sprouts
- 2 Cups salad greens
- 1/2 medium cucumber, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch mint leaves
- 4 Tablespoons chopped peanuts
Cook the rice noodles in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, onion, lemongrass, salt, pepper, half the nuoc mam, and sugar. Mix well. Place the beef into the sauce and marinate for half an hour.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil in skillet and fry beef to desired doneness. Place a quarter of the bean sprouts, salad greens, cucumber, and mint into each of 4 individual soup bowls, and top with rice noodles. Add the cooked meat to each bowl. Drizzle remaining nuoc mam over each bowl, add chopped nuts, and serve.