With the Dragon Boat Festival, Hong Kong makes a surging comeback

This roaring holiday ushers in a post-pandemic high, with restrictions gone and tourists expected to crowd the city's streets again this June 22



Jun 14, 2023 - 4 min read

With the Dragon Boat Festival, Hong Kong makes a surging comeback

After a four-year hiatus, the much-awaited Dragon Boat Festival is back in Hong Kong. This event is of great cultural significance and is celebrated in mainland China and other parts of Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. The festivities in Hong Kong, however, are arguably the most famous among international tourists because of the lengths the Hong Kong government and local establishments go to make it as vibrant and enticing as possible. This traditional water sport happens on the fifth day of the Lunar Year's fifth month and annually has a different date in the Gregorian calendar. In 2023, it falls on Thursday, June 22.

The festival, called “Tuen Ng” in Cantonese, is more than simply going to Victoria Harbour to watch with excitement a group of athletic people in a boat, rowing in unison to the beat of a drum. There are two popular origin stories about the festival that are part of the Chinese-speaking world's cultural fabric.

One of the legends is from the Warring States period of ancient China (the most cited beginning of this era is 475 BC) on the death of patriotic poet Qu Yuan from the kingdom of Chu. The poet served as a minister to the emperor and opposed Chu's alliance with a much larger kingdom, Qin. His opposition led to his banishment from Chu. Later on, as he had feared, Chu fell under the control of Qin, with the deposed emperor dying in exile. Upon learning of his beloved land's fate, it is said that Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth month out of unbearable grief. Moved by the poet's integrity and loyalty, the locals would race out in their boats to find his remains. When they failed to do so, they threw sticky rice balls into the river so the fish would not eat his body.

Other accounts attribute the beginning of the festival to dragon worship some 2,500 years ago among ancient Chinese tribes along the Yangtze River. These communities believed that the dragon was their protector. As part of the ritual to please the dragon god, they painted totems on wooden canoes, raced in the water, and threw a glutinous rice dish stuffed with various fillings into the river.    

There's a rice dumpling for everyone

The bamboo leaf-wrapped rice dumpling that plays a significant role in both stories is called “joong” in Cantonese and “zongzi” in Mandarin. It is versatile fare that satisfies different palates. Northern-style rice dumplings are usually sweet and made of sugar, mung beans, red bean paste, or lotus seeds. The Southern variety, the one commonly found in Hong Kong, is savory and usually a mix of soy sauce, mushrooms, pork, chicken or duck meat, and hard-boiled eggs, among other ingredients. The modern age has ushered in healthier and more sustainable rice dumpling alternatives with plant-based fillings such as veggie meat, dried mushrooms, peanuts, and other vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. The sticky rice dumpling, while emblematic of the Dragon Boat Festival, can be enjoyed any time of the year.

Hong Kong Dragon boat festival

Any Hong Kong restaurant's dream festival

With Hong Kong lifting the last of its strict COVID-19 restrictions last March, this year's Dragon Boat Festival is expected to draw millions of international visitors. The government has done away with its pre-departure and post-arrival quarantine requirements and mask mandate, making it enticing and easier for tourists around the world to once again experience the sights and sounds of this bustling city. Restaurants, in particular, are gearing up for the expected influx of people for the festival and other highly anticipated events to follow. Here are some TableCheck clients that use the platform to give customers an experience to remember:  

Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui

For a wide variety of culinary options and an unforgettable dining experience, the restaurants at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui are the places to go. The Chinese Restaurant has a straightforward name because nothing screams Oriental gastronomic delights than "Chinese": dim sum, barbecued pork, and other traditional dishes in their most delicious iterations are there. Cafe, on the other hand, offers a taste of the world through its international buffet. For tableside cooking and fine dining in a quietly charming restaurant, check out Hugo’s. And if you are up for a glam night out with friends, drinks and live entertainment at Chin Chin Bar are musts.

SAVVY Bar Lounge Restaurant

Located in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong's busiest commercial hub, SAVVY Bar Lounge Restaurant is where people go to relax. It is a bar, lounge, and restaurant in one and offers Hong Kong's tourists and locals a taste of the city's myriad culinary offerings. SAVVY blends the East and West through its truly international menu that features the creations of talented chefs from the most culinary-diverse parts of Asia. Chefs Derek Ng and Lau Man Ming honed their skills in some of the best restaurants in Hong Kong and the mainland, while Chef Nontra-Udon Buapha from Thailand and Chef Yadav Sanjay from India have mastered the culinary traditions of their homelands.

Imperial Treasure

One-Michelin-starred Imperial Treasure is considered one of the best Chinese fine dining restaurants in Hong Kong. It boasts of the most authentic iteration of Peking duck and an array of authentic Chinese delicacies. Its other specializations include signature Chinese dishes such as roasted suckling pig with glutinous rice, poached coral trout with crispy rice in seafood soup, and meat crab in black pepper. For this year's Dragon Boat Festival, Imperial Treasure's Tsim Sha Tsui location will serve traditional handcrafted glutinous rice dumplings with abalone and salted pork.

Around Hong Kong

Around busy and pulsating Hong Kong

Apart from the Dragon Boat Festival, another major Hong Kong event is returning this year. SummerFest Hong Kong is set for June 9 to July 23, 2023, at the Harbourfront Event Space in Central. It has been three years since this large-scale outdoor affair has graced Hong Kong's events calendar, but it is back with a vengeance. Locals and tourists alike are invited to its 30,000 square-meter venue that will be open daily for 45 days. Admission is absolutely free. Some of the highlights are the “One Citybus” exhibition, which features the evolution of the iconic Hong Kong bus. Displays of old bus models and the current fleet will fill the grounds. Young people are encouraged to join activities like the HK Camping Festival, Ukelele Festival, Forest Breathing Market and more. There will also be dance parties, outdoor concerts, and yoga and meditation classes – there truly is something for everyone.

It seems that, after years of pandemic gloom, Hong Kong is back to its bright, energetic self. TablecCheck is ready to support the city's restaurants in managing the expected surge in online reservations, streamlining operations, and automating marketing campaigns. TableCheck is used by more than 8,000+ hospitality and restaurant operators including top hotel properties around the world, helping them give their guests an experience they won't soon forget.

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