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When Truffle Buddha Jumps Over the Wall

Updated: 2024-02-09 08:45 ( China Daily Global )
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Shrimp, chicken and fish dishes grace tables in both the northern and southern regions in China. CHINA DAILY

As he grew up and their living conditions improved, poon choi turned into a stew with various ingredients, a special dish prepared specifically for the Chinese New Year's Eve dinner. It kept getting better over time.

"My favorite was the thousand-layer cake. It's very complicated to make, so we always ordered it from outside. We had to order in advance, such was the demand. In Hong Kong, the Indonesian Chinese would make the best ones," Li said.

Li also remembers how pastries were meant only for guests coming to wish them a "Happy New Year", but how he couldn't resist biting into one when his mother wasn't looking.

After dinner, Li would receive red envelopes from his grandparents and then join local kids in playing games and exchanging greetings in the neighborhood.

In China, New Year's Eve dinners showcase regional diversity through distinct culinary traditions. While common fish and chicken delicacies grace tables in both the northern and southern regions, the northern custom of relishing dumplings sets it apart.

Despite regional differences, the unifying theme is that each dish symbolizes auspicious beginnings and good fortune. The shared essence of New Year's Eve celebrations is the coming together of families to mark the most traditional festival.

Li, who has been a chef for 34 years, moved from Hong Kong to Beijing four years ago. He spends every New Year's Eve preparing special dishes for guests at his restaurant. Some patrons Li has served in Hong Kong are now regulars at his Beijing restaurant. Those who are unable to return to Hong Kong for the Spring Festival holiday also choose to celebrate the Chinese New Year feast at Li's place, enjoying the authentic flavors from their hometown.

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