The shortest day of the year, winter solstice is a time where families come together — over dinner, of course. There are specific foods that show up during the festival in Hong Kong, but other areas in the greater China region have their own takes.
Tong yuen dumplings: These sweet rice dumplings are usually served at the end of the meal in Hong Kong and throughout southern China. They’re served in a sweet or savory broth, either plain or filled with a stuffing such as sesame. They can be brightly colored, too. A symbol for reunion, the dumplings’ name even sounds like the Cantonese word for “union”.
Meat dumplings: In northern China, families feast on pork or lamb dumplings, referencing a story about Chinese writer and physician Zhang Zhongjing distributing them to the poor to prevent them from suffering from chilblains (inflammation of blood vessels) in the colder months.
Nine-layer cakes: Made using glutinous rice flour and served in order to worship ancestors in Taiwan. The cakes are often shaped to look like various auspicious animals. The Taiwanese have been known to eat tong yuen, too.