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Living heritage of Hong Kong

Poon choi, milk tea and herbal tea: only three types of local fare on Hong Kong’s cultural heritage list

From an initial 480 entries of various traditions, the selection has been narrowed to 20

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 12:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 11:48pm

Hong Kong may pride itself on being a “food heaven”, but only three types of local fare managed a place on the city’s first representative list of cultural heritage that the government has pledged to protect.

The three are: Hong Kong-style milk tea, herbal tea and poon choi, a communal dish particularly popular in rural areas.

Poon choi, or “basin vegetables”, comprises a mix of layered ingredients in a large bowl, with prized items such as roast duck, prawns and abalone placed on top. It is traditionally served at occasions such as weddings or festivals where clansmen gather to celebrate unity.

The three food items are among a list of 20 selections that the government has taken some 10 years to come up with, following rounds of deliberation and public consultation.

The list, released on Monday, also includes entries such as ancestral worship rituals, the sewing of traditional gowns for brides and the building of bamboo theatres for Cantonese opera.

Out of the 20 items, 10 were recommended by a group of experts on the Intangible Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee, while another 10 – such as the Cheung Chau bun festival and Ghost Festival – were already on the national list.

In a statement, a government spokesman said: “The representative list would provide the government with a basis for prioritising resources and safeguarding measures for intangible cultural heritage items, especially those of high cultural value and with an urgent need for preservation.”

Dr Chan Choi-hi, a member of the advisory committee, said it had been difficult deciding what to include on the list.

But he was glad that Hong Kong-style milk tea, commonly known as “silk stocking tea” – based on the shape of a sackcloth bag to filter the tea leaves – was selected.

“The silk stocking milk tea reflects the East-West fusion trends of Hong Kong,” Chan said, referring to the localisation of a tea tradition introduced by the British during the colonial era.

He urged the government to set up a museum to display and showcase items of intangible cultural heritage.

Last year, a heritage centre was set up in Sam Tung Uk Museum in Tsuen Wan. But Chan said the items deserved to be housed in a dedicated museum.

Milk tea to worship rituals: Hong Kong public consulted on 10 intangible cultural heritage items

In 2014, the government announced a heritage inventory of 480 items after seven years of research and deliberation. Among the list was a salted fish dish, and Wing Chun, a form of Chinese martial arts.

In February this year, the advisory committee shortlisted 10 items from the list of 480 and put them up for a three-month public consultation.

More than 200 submissions were received with the majority supporting the committee’s recommendations, according to officials.

The government said the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office would organise a series of activities to promote public awareness of the items on the latest list.