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Qingming Season - Food for the Dead


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Qingming Season - Food for the Dead

klyeoh | Mar 18, 2013 08:00 PM

Well, the Qingming Festival (清明節), known as Ching Ming in Hong Kong, is approaching once again. This traditional Confucianist ancestor-commemoration festival falls on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox) on the Chinese Lunar calendar. This year, it coincides with 4th April on the Gregorian calendar and is a bank holiday in Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is also widely observed in countries with large Chinese populations like Singapore and Malaysia.

Food offerings are central to ancestor worship in Chinese culture, and the types of food offered by a family reflect their ethnicity/dialect group. Being of Peranakan (Straits-Chinese, unique to Singapore, Malacca and Penang) and Hokkien/Teochew (閩民系) descent, my family's food offerings for Qingming include:

- "Hong bak", a sweet, aromatic pork and chicken stew scented with star-anise, darkened with dark soysauce, sweetened with Gula Melaka (brown coconut sugar) and spiked with lots of minced garlic.

- "Itik Tim", the Peranakan/Nyonya take on Chinese duck-and-salted mustard soup. The Nyonya rendition may include "lengkuas" (galangal or blue ginger) and, in some families, lemongrass.

- Nyonya chicken curry - thick and coconutty, scented with lemongrass.

- Pig's stomach soup - yes, we normally have at least 2 types of soup. This one include strips of pig's stomach boiled with chicken, made quite peppery with the addition of lots of whole white peppercorns. Lotus seeds are also added.

- Stewed grated turnip and carrot strips, with pork and shrimps, and sometimes finely-julienned dried cuttlefish.

- A mixed vegetable stir-fry ("Chap Chye") of Chinese origin: usually consisting of green peas, carrots, babycorn, mushrooms, green peppers, pork and shrimps.

Besides the more elaborately-cooked dishes described above, there are the other "standard" food offerings: par-boiled pork belly, whole poached chicken, hard-boiled duck-eggs, fruits, and both Nyonya & Chinese "kuehs' or puddings.

These food items are usually brought to the cemeteries or columbriums, and offered to the dead. Of course, after the requisite rituals, these family get-togethers invariably turned into some kind of picnic of sorts, and the food get consumed on the spot by the living :-)

I'd like to know from other Chowhounds of Chinese ancestry here - what are *your* family dishes for Qingming?

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