Thursday, February 7, 2013

Spending Chinese New Year in London - some tips to help you along

Chinese New Year lanterns London 2013
Red lanterns abound along Chinatown's Gerrard Street

The folks at work are never surprised that I'm always in during Christmas. With my family in Singapore, there's really no reason for me to take that period off. Since much of Europe is shut during then and the weather isn't exactly brilliant, I'd rather save my leave days for something more worthwhile.

But they are surprised that I'm in London during Chinese New Year. I've heard of the mad scramble for flights back to China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan just before Chinese New Year. The fares can be quite ridiculously priced if the tickets are bought at the last minute.

I've never been back home during this period for the last six years for a very practical reason. Most businesses and essential services in Singapore are shut for Chinese New Year, some of which are closed up to two full weeks. As we rely on the local dentist, GP and even optician for general maintenance, planning visits then just won't do.

But after spending the last couple of Chinese New Years in London, I notice some things on the run up to the festival.

Chinese New Year lanterns London 2013

1. Never leave buying till after the festival

Contrary to what some might believe, prices of Chinese New Year goodies (snacks and pastries) are fairly consistent as the festival approaches.

If you leave buying these provisions till after the New Year thinking that the prices would plunge, you'd be sorely disappointed. They are literally cleared away immediately after at every Chinese supermarkets. I'm not certain whether they are sold out or simply removed to deter bargain hunters.

2. Where to get your new year snacks and goodies

Chinese New Year Wonderful Patisserie London
Huge range of Chinese New Year snacks at Wonderful Patisserie

When it comes to getting Chinese New Year snacks, look no further than Wonderful Patisserie. It has begun peddling its own brand of snacks range some years back and have been doing a roaring business ever since. In fact, some of the other stores along Gerrard Street are selling Wonderful Patisserie's wares too.

3. Where to get your roast meats

While there's a trend of having reunion dinners at Chinatown's restaurants, many still prefer to intend to have theirs in the comforts of their homes. Most (I for one) would get takeaway roast meats from the restaurants.

Four Seasons at Gerrard Street remains my top choice for "three roasts" (roast pork, charsiew and roast duck). It's surprising quiet if you get yours at before 5pm. Now that there's another branch at Wardour Street, it's just so much more convenient.

4. Where to get the freshest horfun

Without a doubt, Lo's Noodle Factory offers the freshest horfun around. Tucked within the back alley along Dansey Place, there's a tiny factory churning out horfun and chee cheong fun. If you're into lor pok gou (carrot cake) or wu tao gou (yam cake), they have it there too. These are perfect for the Chinese New Year's breakfast.

Chinese New Year lanterns London 2013

With the Chinese New Year's eve falling on a Saturday, having reunion dinners would be much less of a hassle. Regardless of how you are spending the festival, here's wishing you a prosperous new year!

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