Ready-made reunion dinners come into vogue in China

Author of the article: BEIJING — Diners in China turned to ready-made dishes for their annual reunion dinners on the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday, as busy schedules and new offerings from restaurants and supermarkets prompt a shift in traditions. The reunion, on Monday this year, is customary for many Chinese-speaking communities around…
Ready-made reunion dinners come into vogue in China

Author of the article:

BEIJING — Diners in China turned to ready-made dishes for their annual reunion dinners on the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday, as busy schedules and new offerings from restaurants and supermarkets prompt a shift in traditions.

The reunion, on Monday this year, is customary for many Chinese-speaking communities around the world. Families traditionally get together for a freshly prepared feast to mark the end of a year and welcome another.

But in China ready-made dishes or meals, which are pre-prepared and can be warmed up in a few minutes, are now coming into fashion as time-starved urbanites seek quick solutions. Shortcuts are especially welcome for complicated traditional dishes like braised “Dongpo Pork Elbow” or “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall,” a meat-and-seafood stew that can require up to 30 ingredients.

Concerns over COVID-19, due to a spate of new clusters, are also prompting some families to avoid holding reunion dinners at restaurants.

“Last year I had to spend days to prepare the New Year Eve dinner,” said Li Wei, a 32-year-old teacher who decided to pre-order dishes for her family’s reunion dinner from a well-known Beijing restaurant.

“I learned from media reports that ready-made dishes are popular, and that sounds a perfect solution to me as I am not a good cook anyway.”

Supermarkets and restaurants are rushing to meet the demand.

Alibaba Group’s Freshippo supermarket chain is offering Lunar New Year ready-made meal sets priced from 688 yuan ($108.17) to as much as 3,888 yuan ($611.42), and Dingdong Maicai, another fresh-food delivery platform, sells easy-to-cook dishes for the holiday, such as sweet rice pudding.

Earlier this month, the Shanghai Restaurants Cuisine Association said places it recommended for takeaway or delivery of Spring Festival meals had more than tripled to 1,616 restaurants, from 434 last year.

In Beijing on Monday afternoon, staff at the Red Chamber restaurant packed braised lobster into takeaway boxes as customers arrived to pick up their orders.

“Due to the pandemic, a certain proportion of our customers want to have their reunion dinners at home,” said Jack Zhang, deputy director of food and beverage at hotel China World Summit Wing, Beijing which houses the Red Chamber restaurant. “So our sales performance is still steady and growing.”

($1 = 6.3590 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Sophie Yu, Brenda Goh and Xiaoyu Yin; Editing by Richard Chang)

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