By LUXE City Guides, Images by Harold de Puymorin
Ringing in the New Year according to the Chinese calendar is a beloved tradition of families and friends in Hong Kong. Locals enjoy big celebrations throughout the city during Chinese New Year.
Tucked deep inside Sai Kung Country Park, the century-old, traditional stone Hakka village, Pak Sha O, replete with ceremonial hall and watchtower, is inhabited by a small, close-knit international community of whom Christine Giles is the unofficial matriarch. It is Christine who maintains traditional customs and rituals at Chinese New Year, and who, as a fantastic cook, spends several days before the holiday preparing for the lunch, which is attended by family and neighbours.
“During Chinese New Year, I celebrate with my kids and invite the whole village to a feast at my place,” she says. “I cook chicken, fish, shrimp and dried shiitake mushroom and chestnut soup — I cook dishes that I like, and I enjoy inviting people who like my food to be my guests — my foreign neighbours love it!”
The selection of food to be served at Chinese New Year is significant as every dish has a meaning — certain foods are deemed lucky, while others are to be avoided. Christine explains, “We don’t eat duck, because a duck’s face looks sad. Instead, we have chicken — chickens talk and peck, which encourages you to chat with others. Shrimp is served because it’s red and denotes good health, while the word for fish in Cantonese sounds like ‘surplus’ which represents excess of wealth. Shiitake mushrooms look like copper coins, also a sign of wealth, and they’re often served with lettuce which further represents prosperity.” At the other end of the spectrum, “Chinese kale is avoided because it sounds like the word ‘rotten’.”
Seeds (瓜子) — conjures wealth and many children
Dried Candied Lotus Root (糖蓮藕) — Lotus root stands for abundance throughout the year
Niangao (年糕) — glutinous rice cakes to encourage promotion of position or income
cha kwo (茶粿) — a traditional Hakka steamed glutinous rice cake that’s shared among family and friends
Deep-fried taro balls (芋蝦) — for happiness
Crispy pastry dumplings (油角) — denote wealth due to their golden colour.
Alongside the range of delicious home-cooked dishes, last year Christine ordered pun choi. A multi-layered casserole made with up to 14 seasonal ingredients such as chicken, seafood, turnips, mushrooms and other vegetables, pun choi aka ‘basin food’ is a traditional dish believed to have originated during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). In more recent years, it’s acquired near iconic status as a native dish of the city that for many reflects Hong Kong’s unique identity.
Sea View Restaurant
Situated ‘off the beaten path’ in the northeast New Territories near Christine’s home, this unassuming restaurant in the Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park is her go-to for take-home pun choi, both vegetarian and regular. Only takeaway is available for pun choi and order three days in advance.
- Shop B, G/F, 2 Hoi Ha, Hoi Ha Wan, Sai Kung, New Territories
- +852 2328 2181
Super Star Seafood Restaurants
With seven branches in Hong Kong, Super Star offers spring banquets for groups of four, six, or 12 people. Keep in mind when it comes to more affordable options in Hong Kong, the focus is on the food, and service is strictly practical, no frills.
A well-loved-by-locals Cantonese chain, Jade Garden is nearly 50 years old with 14 branches across Hong Kong. The Tsim Sha Tsui branch has a great view of the old Clock Tower, the last relic of the historic Kowloon-Canton Railway that used to roll along the seafront.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board disclaims any liability as to the quality or fitness for purpose of third party products and services; and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, adequacy or reliability of any information contained herein.
Information in this guide is subject to changes without advance notice. Please contact the relevant product or service providers for enquiries.