Although China is officially a non-religious state, many Chinese people living in China now celebrate Christmas. Perhaps western commercialism has influenced the holiday celebrations in China, along with an opportunity to focus on family, or food, or a variety of other possible influences for this fairly recent occurence. Here at the School of Wok we're not complaining as it gives us the perfect opportunity to explore some dishes and customs enjoyed at Christmas in China. One such tradition, which has become increasingly popular in China is the giving of apples on Christmas Eve. It's much like the tradition of a mandarin or tangerine stuffed into the toe of a Christmas stocking; a tradition which originated from the story of St Nicholas gifting bags of gold to three poor girls. To the Chinese, mandarins and tangerines represent symbols of luck and fortune. Conveniently enough the Mandarin word for Christmas Eve 'Ping An Ye' sounds very similar to the word fo apple 'Ping Guo'. Given both circumstances the Chinese not only display bowls of tangerines and oranges to symbolize wealth and good luck, but also exchange apples as gifts for this reason.
Although Christmas dinner is still a very Western tradition, the Chinese are starting to celebrate by holding Christmas parties, either in the home or at a restaurant. Ba bao ya (Eight treasure duck) is the Chinese version of a stuffed turkey! It is a whole duck stuffed with chicken, smoked ham, shrimp, chestnuts, bamboo shoots, scallops and mushrooms, stir-fried with rice, soy sauce, ginger, spring onions and rice wine. Yum! Some may also choose to celebrate Christmas wtih food that is common during other Chinese festivals, such as dumplings or Peking Duck. While food is obviously important in all cultures taking part in Christmas festivities, it seems to remain that it is the coming together of friends and family that is truly at the heart of this celebratory event.
And speaking of friends and family coming together to celebrate, our Head Chef Jeremy has put together some video recipes which are perfect for giving your Christmas menu a Chinese twist. Whether you prefer to stick with a traditional turkey or feel like trying something a bit different this holiday season, our Crispy Duck & Pancakes, Black Bean Beef in Beer, or Chocolate & Peanut Butter Spring Rolls are perfect for entertaining and celebrating the coming together of loved ones, no matter the reason or the season!
Check out Jeremy's video recipe fpr Crispy Duck Breast & Pancakes here.