Keeping up with the Hakka food culture

| Juliana Chen 16 May 2018

"Food history is as important as a baroque church. Governments should recognize cultural heritage and protect traditional foods. A cheese is as worthy of preserving as a 16th-century building."

Concurring with this viewpoint of Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food Movement and the University of Gastronomic Sciences, aimed at bridging the gap between agriculture and gastronomy, friends are attending the second "ICH Day @ Hang Hau" today to show support for preservation of our intangible cultural heritage.

Among the activities being held at the Bamboo Theatre of the Tin Hau Festival located at the Hang Hau village public car park in Sai Kung is the making and tasting of Cha Kwo (steamed sticky rice dumpling) from 12.30pm to 1pm.

This traditional Hakka delicacy was created as a religious offering hundreds of years ago and later became a household tea-time dim sum.

The soft outer shell is made of rice powder and glutinous rice powder, with savory or sweet ingredients such as dried shrimps, sesame or bean paste inside.

The dumplings are steamed on banana leaves to enhance the aroma. Other activities of the day connect with the Tin Hau Festival celebrations held every year at Hang Hau. The centerpiece is a Thanksgiving Cantonese opera performance (Shen Gong Xi) to pay tribute to Tin Hau - the Goddess of Heaven.

Staged at a custom-built bamboo shed theatre at Hang Hau village, the performance is preceded by a unicorn dance in front of the Tin Hau Temple to invite the goddess to join the procession bestowing blessings.

Today's ICH activities start at 9.30am with a talk on the Tin Hau Festival, followed by a Hakka folk song performance and open session. Talks and demonstrations on bamboo-theater building technique and Hakka unicorn dance round off the morning session.

Focus for the afternoon is "Shen Gong Xi" demonstration and open participation, to be followed by a demonstration of the paper-crafting technique of the Hakka Unicorn.

As American author, Steve Berry, said: "A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies - all of the things that quite literally make us who we are."

So let's join hands with the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office in safeguarding our cultural roots by actively taking part.

Retired senior civil servant Juliana Chen is a passionate crystal collector who shares the good things in life.

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