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Snakehead Fish to Worship Thần Tài: The God of Wealth

May 1, 2023
4 Min Read
Written by 
Snakehead fish with motorbikes in the background in Vietnam

Traditions. How far are you willing to go to maintain traditions? People frequently go to great lengths to preserve traditions, which are a fundamental aspect of many cultures.


Vietnam is no different.


One of the most significant days in Vietnam is the God of Wealth Festival, also known as Than Tai. Celebrated on the tenth day of the lunar calendar, it is a day filled with traditions and offerings to the God of Wealth, who is believed to bring prosperity and good fortune to those who celebrate it.

Inside a snakehead fish stall in Saigon, Vietnam

One of the most sought-after items on this special day is grilled snakehead fish, which is an essential offering on God of Wealth Day. It is believed that offering grilled snakehead fish, among others, will protect your home and your business from evil spirits and bring good fortune in the coming year.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the atmosphere is bustling as crowds gather on the narrow streets of Tan Ky Tan Quy in Tan Phu District. Vendors have set up tables here, selling hundreds of snakehead fish ranging in price from 150,000 VND to 300,000 VND (7 to 13 USD) depending on size.

Streets are covered in smoke from the grilled snakehead fish.

Tan Ky Tan Quy has been known as Saigon's "grilled fish market" for many years. On this particular day, however, the streets are filled with smoke and an exciting shopping atmosphere. This is the busiest time of year on this street, as residents are preparing offerings for the God of Wealth. As each individual carefully selects the best fish for their offerings, the street gets extremely congested from 8am to noon.

Vendors anticipate selling hundreds of snakehead fish on this day and have therefore recruited additional family members to assist. Preparations begin the night before, giving them enough time to prepare and sell all of the fish until the following day. It is a lengthy procedure that requires everyone's cooperation, but it is completed in a spirit of celebration.

A man grills snakehead fish on the street in Saigon, Vietnam

A day before God of Wealth festival, hundreds of boxes of fish are delivered from Binh Dien Market. The staff sort them by size and take their time to ensure that each fish is handled carefully.

Tradition dictates that the snakehead fish must be presented in its entirety, including scales, bile, and tail. As a result, the cooking process is crucial for sellers, who must keep the snakehead fish intact for customers to buy it.

A man grills snakehead fish on the street in Saigon, Vietnam

The cooks believe that using sugar cane as skewers adds a sweet flavor to the fish. Depending on its size, the snakehead fish is grilled for approximately 30 minutes. The staff must ensure that the snakehead fish is skillfully prepared in order to preserve its freshness, flavor, and appearance.

When the grilling is complete, the chefs use a knife to scrape off the coal dust and then stack the fish in rows while maintaining a constant temperature.

Once a customer chooses a fish, the cooks reheat it and add onion fat. The snakehead fish is topped with green onions and roasted peanuts and then wrapped in aluminum foil to retain heat. In addition to the fish, vendors provide a side of herbs, fish dipping sauce, rice paper, and vermicelli noodles.

Snakehead fish covered in herbs and peanuts.

Although the origins of this day are unknown to many, people continue to buy snakehead fish and other items to honor the God of Wealth and seek his blessings for a prosperous new year. 

The traditions associated with God of Wealth's Day are deeply rooted in both culture and history. Whether you adhere to these customs or not, the joyous atmosphere on this day is a sight to behold, especially for something that has been celebrated for hundreds of years.


A lover of nature and adventure whose main interests revolve around oceans and mountains.

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