Tighter COVID-19 restrictions, including a ban on dining in restaurants after 6 p.m., mean many Hong Kong families are eating their reunion dinner on Lunar New Year’s eve at home this year.
Chef Fong Wah-yat prepares the "Poon Choi" dish at the RenRen Heping Restaurant in Hong Kong on Jan. 21, 2022.
To make up for lost business from the dining-in restrictions, many restaurants are offering “poon choi” takeaways. Each ingredient is prepared and cooked separately in advance, usually in the early hours of the day before the dish is assembled for customers to take home.
Chef Fong Wah-yat carries a bucket of prawns while making the "Poon Choi" dish at the RenRen Heping Restaurant in Hong Kong, Jan. 21, 2022.
RenRen Heping Restaurant chef Fong Wah-yat has been busy preparing takeaway “poon choi” for two weeks, with the restaurant receiving some 425 orders for the dish.
“Chinese people like to eat these expensive foods like sea cucumbers and abalones at our Lunar New Year family gatherings because we have worked very hard over the past year,” Fong said. “We should eat these delicacies to reward ourselves for our hard work.”
Each ingredient in the dish carries meaning. Fish maw represents a constant flow of fortune, while abalone – with its shape reminiscent of gold ingots – represents abundance, according to Fong.
"Poon Choi" ingredients including chunks of seafood like abalone, sea cucumber, dried scallops, oysters and prawns together with pork knuckle and fragrant mushrooms, are seen in a basin at the RenRen Heping Restaurant in Hong Kong on Jan. 21, 2022.
“If you eat in a restaurant, there will be many people and during the pandemic, I do not want to eat in a restaurant with so many people,” said Ng Wai-kuen, a customer who bought takeaway “poon choi” for six people and was planning a dinner at home.
Renita Ho (R), a customer, receives her take-away "Poon Choi" at the RenRen Heping Restaurant in Hong Kong, Jan. 21, 2022.