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When Truffle Buddha Jumps Over the Wall

Updated: 2024-02-09 08:45 ( China Daily Global )
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Stewed pork and abalone with brown sauce. CHINA DAILY

Li Cheung, 52, the head chef at Xin Ming Yuen restaurant in Beijing, cannot forget how his family used to mark Chinese New Year's Eve. For his mother, this used to be the busiest day of the year, and largely spent in the kitchen. Preparations started much earlier; she would start planning for the lavish spread on the 26th day of the 12th month of the lunar calendar.

"My mother would embark on a shopping spree, procuring a plethora of ingredients such as sea cucumber, fish, pig's trotters and an assortment of candies and snacks," Li recalls fondly. "For desserts we arranged rice cakes, melon seeds, pistachios and more."

Growing up in Kowloon, Hong Kong, Li often accompanied his mother to buy things in the run-up to the Chinese New Year. "We would buy dried abalone, fish maw, and preserved meats at Wing Lok Street. For candies, we went to the bustling Garden Street in Mong Kok," Li says. His mother specialized in making poon choi, as also rice and radish cakes.

"Initially, poon choi used to be made by putting together leftovers from the Chinese New Year's Eve dinner in a big pot. We'd continue enjoying it the next day," Li recalls.

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