The Chinese, like their counterparts in the West, also have an Advent calendar. It is called the jiujiu winter calendar, which starts from Winter Solstice (Dongzhi) each year. Jiujiu literally means nine nines, and every nine days is a unit of time. And at the end of the ninth unit of time in the jiujiu calendar, it is the end of winter.
We are now in the "second nine" of the calendar, a time when "people put their hands in their pockets."
After Minor Cold, which falls on January 5 this year, the festive mood is high. It is also fair to say that every Chinese festival is closely related with food. For example at the Laba Festival, people eat a type of congee made of several types of rice, beans and dried fruits.
This festive food is usually the embodiment of people's good wishes for the New Year.
Shanghai Daily lists below some favorite festive foods to eat in winter, and where to find them in Hangzhou.
Rice cakes 年糕
Rice cakes (niangao) have been taken as a festive food for a long time. It is said that in the past locals ate rice cakes all day in Winter Solstice. This is partly because of the homophone of the name niangao for growing up year after year.
You can enjoy rice cakes in a soup or stir-fried, and have it sweet or savory. In Hangzhou, a common way to serve rice cakes is to stir-fry them with shredded pork.
The rice cake slab is cut into small pieces, while the pork is steeped in cooking wine, mixed with salt and starch before use.
In authentic home-style cooking, winter bamboo shoots and yellow chives are added. And soy sauce is splashed on when pan-frying the rice cakes until the surface is slighted colored. Always remember the last step, add some water to the wok and stew the rice cakes for a few minutes until the sauce is thickened.
In some restaurants Chinese celery is used instead of yellow chives. But if you cannot tolerate the bitter taste, it would be advisable to ask one of the staff to take it out beforehand.
Where to eat: Zhiweiguan Restaurant
Address: 83 Renhe Rd