With Dining Restrictions, What Are Hong Kong's Chefs Doing This Chinese New Year?
Though many look upon the Lunar New Year as a time of feast after family feast—a cavalcade of suckling pig, abalone, steamed garoupa and the like—for those in the kitchen, it's one of the busiest, if not the most profitable, times of the year, as tables become a hot commodity at Chinese restaurants across Hong Kong. Suffice to say that Chinese New Year in 2021 will be near unrecognisable thanks to a government ban on public gatherings more than two people, and a dine-in ban after 6pm. While there is light at the end of the tunnel—with the relaxation of these measures due for 18 February—for now, the restaurant industry must contend with a quieter festive period.
With the nighttime F&B industry reduced to delivery and takeaway meals, what are Chinese chefs planning to occupy their first free Lunar New Year in years with? We talked to five veterans to find out.
Chef Chan Kai Ying, Chilli Fagara
"In the past, I’ve spent the holiday celebrating with friends and family. We drink Sichuan wine and tea and burn firecrackers—it’s a shared experience we have all come to love. This year we'll be staying at home and celebrating in a small group. I’ll prepare Sichuan food of course! I’ll use this time to experiment with new recipes—I hope to put some tasty yet healthy recipes on the Chilli Fagara menu and I’d love to create a Chinese wine pairing menu. I’ve been impressed with the pours coming out of China in recent years. I hope for good health for everyone and that we’ll pass through the pandemic without further loss. I wish to see travellers return to Hong Kong; I’ve always enjoyed teaching foreigners about regional Chinese food and sharing the unique flavours of Sichuan food with them."
Chilli Fagara, G/F, 7 Old Bailey Street, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2796 6866
Chef Wong Yiu Por, Nove Kitchen
"With more time on my hands, I'm able to make some Chinese cakes and pastries for my friends and relatives to enjoy. I've made around 20 to 30 servings, which they all loved. Since February 12th and 13th are the only holidays for us this year, I've planned a dinner gathering with my children and grandkids. It will be a happy gathering with three generations under one roof! For dinner, we will be preparing 8 to 10 dishes to celebrate the festival. I'll also play mahjong with the kids as a way to spend the first day of Chinese New Year. Most importantly, we wish for prosperity and good fortune."
Chef Li Chi Wai, The Legacy House
"In Chinese New Years past, I would mostly be at work with my team to support them, as they are just like family to me! I'm as happy spending time with them as I am on my days off spending with my family. I usually celebrate the festival with my family earlier, where I cook at home and invite close friends and family over for a gathering. With Rosewood On The Move, I have to work this year as we have lots of orders and I don’t want to disappoint any guests. For this reason, I will be at Rosewood to lead my team and cook every single order to deliver the best to our guests."
Chef Hung Chi Kwong, Run
“This Lunar New Year, when I have time off from work, I will be chef at home for my family. I usually start the day by taking my children to the wet market and picking out some essential ingredients. There’s always something exciting at the wet market, and often during this period, very seasonal ingredients. One of our favourite dishes is a very simple chicken dish, but the marination process, which uses wholesome ingredients like ginger and spring onion, must be prepared one day in advance. I usually cook simpler food at home, because being with the family is what makes it special.
At Run, we are fully booked for the first few days already and will be offering two rounds of lunch service for our guests. A lot of our regular guests have called in advance to book a table, so I will be spending most of my time greeting them. Chinese New Year is all about the atmosphere and togetherness, so even though we have some dining restrictions this year, we want to make sure our guests feel like they’re at home when they dine with us. Our specialties menu and dim sum menu are all created with auspicious meaning—it’s tradition to exchange well wishes with our guests, not only in saying it, but also through our food.
We will also invite our guests to 'pick their fortune' from a candy box at the entrance, much like when you visit a relative’s home. It’ll be a joyous and fun ambiance as this positivity is something we all need.”
See also: 5 Cocktails And Spirits To Toast The Year Of The Ox With
Chef Li Man Lung, Duddell's
"With the current situation, I think the whole industry is using most of the time to gather new ideas and promotions to serve our regular guests right. This year we came up with our poon choi and new year puddings, which were very popular. To celebrate, I will be spending time with my family because we have a new member joining—my newborn son! I hope everything gets better this year, as Hong Kong's situation is not ideal. More importantly, I wish for the best of health to everyone."