What do Hong Kong locals eat during Chinese New Year?
Like Singapore, Hong Kong supermarkets and bakeries are stocked up with sweet candies, melon seeds, chocolates, sweets, abalone, top shell seafood, cookies, chinese sausages, preserved meats, traditional chinese snacks like dragon beard candy to sweet crispies snacks.
What I am interested is what they have here that we don’t eat in Singapore because it makes it special. And although we do have many common tidbits, both regions serve/bake it differently.
Nian Gao/Chinese New Year Puddings
Although we both eat Niao Gao, HK have taken it to a whole new different level. Instead of just one type of traditional Nian Gao, they have 3 main categories. The traditional sticky cake, the savory type in two main flavors ( turnip pudding and taro pudding with different ingredients and taste), the sweet dessert type (like Hong Kong jelly in all kinds of flavors or style). I will be posting a comparison between the Wing Wah and Kee Wah puddings. (both are my favorite bakeries)
You can find them everywhere about 2 weeks before Chinese New Year from Bakeries to restaurants to major super markets.Even their traditional nian gao/sticky cake/chinese new year puddings, comes in different flavors. They have brown sugar which is the common version, brown sugar with ginger, brown sugar with coconut, cane sugar, almond milk flavored one, for the health conscious they have low sugar, malt flavor and the list goes on!
You can get it vacuum packed and it will last for one month from the date its sold.
For their sweet puddings, they have it mostly in a jelly form. The more common ones are waterchestnut cake, mango puree with sago pomelo, osthamus goji berries chestnut jelly, red bean lily bulb lotus seed ( which taste like the traditional Hong Kong snack :buut jai go, or “little bowl pudding”) etc.. And you can even get them in Hello Kitty moulds!
Lo Hei, a celebratory act of tossing the shredded vegetables up in the air and saying wishes for the year as part of bringing in the New Year.
Lo Hei or Yusheng is not an deep integral part of the Hong Kong Chinese New Year food. Not many places sell it. But in the places that do, it differs from Singapore.
Their version in Hong Kong has more protein food, instead of only Salmon or raw fish, they have prawns, scallops, abalone, jelly fish as their toppings. And their vegetable combination is also slightly different, I also notice in Hong Kong, they like to match melon with seafood. So, its not any different in Lohei, they also add shredded melon. Interesting eh!
I can’t wait to taste the Shanghai styled Lohei at Shanghai Min… which will come after Chinese New Year. Many restaurants in Hong Kong offer Chinese New Year dinner sets during this time and its usually available two weeks before to two or three weeks after Chinese New year (timeframe varies from restaurant to restaurant).
Steamboat vs Poon Choi
Instead of Steamboat/peranakan food (Singaporeans Chinese/peranakans eat), Hong Kong locals eat Poon Choi (pronounced as Pun choi) during Chinese New Year. (Note: Locals here call Steamboat: Hotpot)
Poon choi is a big basin of food. When its being eaten, they will place it on a cooker to heat up the poon choi.
Poon Choi typically starts off many layers of food. With the more expensive ingredients piled on top, like abalone, oysters, scallops, and the next layer is the meats, lastly followed by noodles. Most people will clear the top and work their way to the bottom.
Its slowly braised and cooked beforehand. Different from steamboat, when you cook during the meal.
All layers use the same seasoning in Poon Choi. You might get bored after a while because all layers are cooked the same way and taste the same.
This is sold in restaurants like Maxim, cafe de coral etc
Snacks offered only during Chinese New Year (not commonly seen in Singapore)
Red Bean Paste Dumpling/Lotus Seed Paste Dumpling
This cannot be eaten directly and usually have a short shelf life like 3 days. It needs to be steamed to be eaten as its too hard to be eaten at room temperature. The dumpling skin is very thick. I won’t be buying it again.
Supreme Preserved Pork Meat (marinated in rose wine)
This is meant to put onto steam rice. But I find it bit hard to cut into pieces as it contains bone and it doesn’t add much flavor to the steam rice. This will not be a good option for a health conscious person as it has huge amount of fats. You can buy this from Wing Wah.
Tidbits/Snacks more commonly found in HK and SG
Pumpkin candy is pretty nice. Its pumpkins seeds held together by harden sugar.
The rice cakes are very hard. Its quite an interesting taste made up for 5 different rice grains. Texture wise it taste similar to the better known almond cakes.
The white sesame and peanut puff is a big puff, with little filling inside. The puff pastry is not very crunchy and quite soft. The peanuts and white sesame did not have much taste and is quite bland. I still prefer the Singapore version.
They are like salty cookies. Pretty hard to bite into. I gave it to quite a few of my colleagues to try. Don’t think it was well received.
Pineapple Tarts/pineapple shortcake
The pine apple shortcakes are baked in cubes. It has many flavours to choose from, pineapple with walnuts, with nata de coco, with egg yolk, melon and mango shortcakes.
My favorite is probably the pineapple filling with walnut, mango filling, pineapple filling with nata de coco as it adds a crunch to the filling.
But I do find the pineapple crust a bit tough and dry compared to ours. Its also less buttery.