Lunar New Year
Family reunions are an important part of Chinese New Year, and that means either a festive meal at home – or a lavish banquet at a Chinese restaurant – often a fine dining restaurant at a top hotel.
If you are dining at a Chinese restaurant on or close to the Lunar New Year, chances are you will be offered a set menu that starts with three starters on individual plates, which will be served individually to each diner.
This will be followed by barbecued suckling pig, which will have flashing red lights where the eyes used to be.
The succulent porker will be put in the centre of the table, and two inch square slabs will be offered to each diner.
Subsequent courses will include abalone, which will be served in one form or another because it is not only yummy.
Abalone is also expensive, and what better way to celebrate the New Year than with something expensive?
There will also be something made with bird’s nest, some kind of fried rice, some kind of noodles, and – absolutely, positively – some kind of fish (which in Southern China will usually be steamed)!
Fish will be served for three reasons.
First, most Chinese people like it. Second, it is considered to be healthy. Third, it is considered to be auspicious.
The Chinese character for fish, you see, is a homonym for the Chinese character for abundance (yu).
If you eat fish during Chinese New Year, it should attract either lots of sons or lots of money (or some other type of good fortune) in the new year.
Chinese New Year is, of course, a good excuse for chefs to show off their culinary talents.
The top executive chefs at the top Chinese restaurants try to outdo one another by either tweaking tried and true recipes or coming up with something new and Innovative.
Chinese New Year Pudding
Following dinner, there will usually be sweet and sticky puddings (desserts to Americans) and/or glutinous rice dumplings.
If there weren’t any savoury bird’s nest dishes earlier, there will also likely be something sweet made with bird’s nest.
Most of the larger Chinese restaurants – especially those at hotels – sell Chinese puddings and other sweet treats, often in gift baskets. They can usually be ordered on line.
Some Chinese restaurants will serve set menus and special dishes only on Chinese New Year’s Eve and the first two or three days of the Lunar New Year.
Other Chinese restaurants will serve their Chinese New Year special promotions for as long as one month.
Chinese New Year Parade
Chinese New Year Parades are held in cities with large Chinese communities around the word, and Hong Kong is no exception.
The Chinese New Year Parade is held on Chinese New Year Day, which takes place on Saturday 28 January.
The Chinese New Year Parade will be held in the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon Peninsula.
Many streets will be closed streets, which should be taken into consideration when making plans.
A cultural show will be held for ticket-holders at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Plaza on Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon before the parade starts.
Street performers will also perform along the parade route starting at 6 pm.
The parade will commence at 8 pm, marching from the Hong Kong Cultural Plazza along Canton Road.
It will turn right onto Haiphong Road, where it will continue to Nathan Road, turning right, and proceeding to the Sheraton Hotel and Towers at Salisbury Road, just a short walk from where it began.
Chinese New Year Fireworks
If you are planning on dining on Sunday 29 January, the second day of the Chinese New Year, you should take the Chinese New Year Fireworks display over Victoria Harbour into consideration.
Your first decision should be whether you want to witness the fireworks or avoid the crowds.
If you want to view the spectacular pyrotechnics display from the restaurant you will be dining at, make sure to book a table at a restaurant with a view of the harbour.
Several restaurants on both sides of the harbour have harbour views. Some of these eateries are just above sea level, while others are at higher elevations.
Many eateries have terraces and rooftops with excellent views.
Some of the best harbour views are at the food and beverage outlets of the InterContinental Hong Kong on Salisbury Road on the Kowloon waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui.
If you plan on dining at a restaurant with a harbour view, please keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of people will flood the streets of surrounding areas.
As a result, the police will carry out crowd control measures, which will include blocking access to certain streets and allowing crowds to move in only one direction or the other.
So please allow extra time to get to your dinner venue.
If you don’t plan on dining at a restaurant with a view of the fireworks, you might want to consider booking a table in a restaurant in another part of town.
Hong Kong’s Best Chinese Restaurants
Here is a quick guide to what some of the best Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong will be serving in celebration of the Year of the Rooster in 2017.
A follow-up guide on what some of the best Chinese restaurants in Southeast Asia – Bangkok, Jakarta Kuala Lumpu, Macau, Manila, and Singapore – will be published on Wednesday 15 January 2017.
The Cantonese restaurant at Langham Place, Hong Kong, is one of only two Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong – and four Chinese restaurants in the world – to have been awarded three Michelin stars.
Chinese New Year specialties will include baked sliced fresh lobster with mozzarella cheese and Portuguese sauce, braised bird’s nest with crab meat and crab roe, double boiled sea whelk and fish maw with chicken, ham, and dried barbary wolfberry fruit soup, and several other delicacies.
The menu will be served from 28 January to 3 February 2017.
T’ang Court, Langham Place, Hong Kong, Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2375-1133.
Executive Chef Mango Tsang Chiu-lit and his team will serve three set menus for 12 guests at Ming Court, the Cantonese restaurant at the Cordis, a five star hotel in Kowloon’s Mongkok district.
The most extravagant set menu will feature suckling pig, lobster, bird’s nest, abalone, garoupa, chicken, fried rice, e-fu noodles, glutinous dumplings, and dessert.
The two Michelin star restaurant will also feature three new “nourishing and delectable” Chinese New Year puddings.
Ming Court, Cordis, Hong Kong, 555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 3552-3052.
Yan Toh Heen
Chef Lau Yiu-fai will serve an eight course Chinese New Year Firework Dinner menu at the two Michelin star Cantonese restaurant at the InterContinental Hong Kong on 29 January. It is priced at an auspicious HK$2,888 a head.
A somewhat less pricey (but still not for foodies of slender means) Fat Choy menu will be served from 12 January to 12 February. The five course menu will be served with semi fermented oolong tea from the high mountains of Taiwan.
Yan Toh Heen, InterContinental Hong Kong, Salisbury Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2721 1211.
Spring Moon will serve three Spring Set Dinners –Fortune, Wealth, and Longevity – between 12 January and 12 February 2017.
The 10 courses dinners will be suitable for 10 or more diners. Featured dishes will include Simmered Boston Lobster with XO Chili Sauce, Braised Whole Abalone with
With Fish Maw and Vegetables, and Sesame Crispy Chicken in Rock Salt.
Spring Moon, The Peninsula Hong Kong, first floor, Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2920-2888.
Hoi King Heen
Executive Chinese Chef Leung Fai-hung and his team will serve pan-fried mandarin fish fillet with garlic, stewed oyster with shrimp paste and pork, and braised assorted dried seafood with chicken and roasted goose, and other delicacies throughout the months of January and February in celebration of Chinese New Year.
A Chinese calligraphy master will hand-write customized Fai Chun for all guests between 20 and 26 January, enabling them to bring the best wishes home.
The God of Fortune will visit every table between 28 and 30 January to wish guests luck and fortune in the Year of the Rooster.
The popular Cantonese restaurant will also serve four mouth-watering Chinese New Year puddings.
Hoi King Heen, InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong, 70 Mody Road, Tsimshatsui East, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2731-2883.
Head Chef So Kei Pak and his team will serve a series of temptingly auspicious dishes at Tao Li, the Chinese restaurant at the New World Millennium Hotel in East Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon between 28 January and 3 February.
Featured dishes will include Sautéed Sliced Chicken with Fillet of Garoupa and Vegetables, Sautéed Fish Maw, Shrimp Roe, Crab Roe, Scallop, Minced Shrimp, and Osmanthus in Lettuce Wraps as well as a lavish selection of mouth-watering dim sum
Tao Li, New World Millennium Hotel, 73 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2739-1111.
Lai Bun Fu
Chef Chung and his staff will celebrate revisit time-honoured favourites with a contemporary twist in celebration of the Year of the Rooster.
Featured dishes will include Chinese tapas with braised abalone atop mini toasts with Roselle sauce and braised lamb belly with shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
Lai Bun Fu, 5th floor, 18 On Lan Street, Central, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2564-3868.
The two Michelin star Chinese restaurant Shang Palace at the Island Shangri-la Hong Kong will serve “a scrumptious feast” from 4 to 31 January 2017.
Featured will be three traditional Chinese New Year puddings and auspicious gift hampers.
Summer Palace, Island Shangri-la, Hong Kong, Pacific Place, Supreme Court Road, Central, Hong Kong. Telephone; (852) 2877-3838.
Tong Dak Whole Korean Fried Chicken will be served at this popular Korean eatery from 23 January to 11 February 2017.
Australian, free-range chicken is slathered in a batter of matzo meal and vodka and fried to crispy perfection on the outside and tender, juicy meat on the inside. served with side dishes, slaw and, sauces
Jinjuu, U/G, California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 3755-4868.
Tin Lung Heen
Chef de Cuisine Paul Lau Ping-lui and his team will serve a Chinese Gastronomy with Opus One Wine Paring menu at the two Michelin star Chinese Restaurant from 1 January to 31 March 2017.
Tin Lung Heen, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2263-2270.
What to Wash It All Down With
Wine, cognac, or beer?
A traditional Chinese banquet features several dishes, and flavours and textures can vary substantially from course to course.
Because of the traditional ordering of courses, which tradition-bound chefs are loathe to alter, pairing wines with dishes at a Chinese banquet can pose serious challenges.
Sweet and sour, hot and spicy, mild and nuanced?
Opinion is divided on what best to serve at a Chinese banquet, with younger foodies favouring wine and older foodies favouring cognac or beer.
One of the advantages of beer is that it goes equally well with everything.
And if beer is to be consumed, what better choice in the Year of the Rooster than an artisanal beer brewed in Hong Kong by the Fat Rooster Brewing Company?
Fat Rooster was established in 2014 by some Hong Kong-based beer enthusiasts that were obsessed with “great distinctive, hand-crafted beers”.
A year earlier, they had “started experiencing with several batches of surprisingly good home brews that impressed our friends and lucky neighbours”.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Fat Rooster currently markets four beers: Hong Kong IPA, Red Ale, a limited release Amber Ale. and a limited release Brown Ale.
A limited release Belgium Ale is coming soon.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that as far as I know Fat Rooster is not currently currently available at any of Hong Kong’s Chinese restaurants.
It is, however, available at a handful of pubs and Western restaurants. Why not stop off for a pint on your way to the banquet?