With Chinese New Year fast approaching, people are busy preparing all kinds of festive food and delicacies to celebrate the much anticipated occasion with their families and friends. However, after the festivity, it is quite common to hear people around us saying that they fall victim to “Chinese New Year syndrome”, like having weight gain, gout attack, indigestion and even diarrhoea or vomiting, which is usually caused by lavish meals and excessive eating and drinking during this period of the year. It is necessary to choose food wisely and have self-control while having a good time.
The “must-have” deep-fried food for Chinese New Year: yau gok (crispy triangles), jin dui (sesame balls) and siu hau chou (crispy sesame seed balls).
All these items are high-calorie and high-fat food that would cause weight gain, high cholesterol and hypertension if excess amounts are consumed. Eat less of them and should not have them as snacks or for supper.
“Buddies” of Chinese candy box: candied lotus seeds, candied sliced winter melon and candied coconut triangles
There are always candied fruits in the candy box, since the sweetened treats mean “sweetness of life” in the New Year to come. Yet, intake of excessive sugar can result in excess calorie intake, overweight and thereby prone to obesity. It is advisable to eat less of them. Moreover, these preserved and candied fruits contain sulphur dioxide, which should be avoided by those who are allergic to this food additive.
Puddings suggestive of “Onward and Upward”
Examples are turnip puddings, taro cakes, glutinous rice cakes and tapioca flour cakes (golden cakes), which should be eaten moderately since they are rich in starch. In case of reheating, steaming is preferred to deep-frying.
Whether these festive food items are homemade or bought, the public should take note of the followings and be a smart consumer:
1. Shop smart
Purchase festive food and ingredients from reputable shops in good hygiene condition;
Do not buy food products whose colour is too bright and white or having a pungent odour to avoid excess intake of colorants or additives. Melon seeds with an unnatural gloss may be added with mineral oil that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort;
For prepackaged festive food, check the expiry date and whether the packaging is intact and undamaged;
For non-prepackaged festive food items, like crispy triangles, melon seeds and Chinese candied fruits and vegetables, check whether they are soggy and their containers are clean.
2. Proper storage
Note the properties of the festive food products in their storage or according to the storage instruction on their packaging. Melon seeds and candied sliced winter melon should be kept in air-tight containers and stored in a cool, dry place;
Do not buy excessive amounts of festive food to avoid spoilage due to prolonged storage or expiration before consumption;
Discard any food that becomes spoiled, having an objectionable smell or turns mouldy due to improper or prolonged storage.
3. Separate raw and cooked food
Wrap raw and cooked food separately and stored it in the refrigerator at below 5℃ based on the principle of “cooked food above raw food”;
Use separate utensils for handling raw and cooked food in preparing festive food to avoid cross-contamination.
4. Cook thoroughly
Food must be cooked or reheated thoroughly until the internal temperature reaches 75 ℃ or above and consume it promptly;
Consume the reheated food immediately in one go. Avoid reheating food for more than once.
5. Keep clean
Observe good personal hygiene practices. Wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and water before handling or consuming festive food;
Wash all food ingredients before cooking and handle them with clean utensils.
Lastly, the public should maintain a balanced diet during the Chinese New Year and avoid eating too much festive food that is high in fat and sugar.