Soaking up the sauce at the Pun Choi Banquet: a celebration of the RCHK community

Written By Zoe Ying

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Two years ago, in honour of RCHK’s 10th anniversary, RAPT hosted the “Big TEN” Pun Choi Feast.  Fifty tables were set up on the basketball court and piled up with delicious food to celebrate ten years of the RCHK community.  Clearly, it must have been a successful endeavour, because, two years later, it has made a comeback - and might be on its way to becoming a yearly celebration of the RCHK community. On March 1st 2019, RCHK celebrated its second-ever Pun Choi night, with 400 people gathering on the basketball court to share good food with friends and family and bring luck and fortune for the coming year.

For those of you who don’t know, Pun Choi, which literally translates to “basin vegetables”, is a unique part of Hong Kong culture, particularly rural culture. It’s a large one-pot dish served for special occasions, especially Chinese NY. There are a few main ingredients in a pun choi dinner, including turnip, mushroom, chicken and pork.  While they may seem to have been thrown in at random, the layering of the ingredients is essential to the deliciousness of pun choi, the flavour becoming more complex further down the basin. The top layers consist of foods such as seafood, chicken and prawn while the middle is filled with pork and dried mushrooms. The bottom layers have turnip and fatty pork, which soak up the sauce and juices from the ingredients above.

All of this seems quite time-consuming and expensive, but the hard work and dedication shown by the RAPT team made it all work out, and as it turns out one pot of pun choi (plus endless cans of Coke) shared between ten people works out to be a very affordable $60 per person, with RAPT subsidising half of the cost (most definitely not sneakily promoting it!)

The activity began at seven that evening with an announcement from the organisers about the art of pun choi and its objective - to celebrate an event together, with the RCHK community.  “The point is that everyone works together to peel back the layers, to represent co-operation between individuals,” one committee member remarked, to much head-nodding.

Dr. Harry Brown, school principal, remarked, “The first Pun Choi was great, but this one - this one is even bigger and better, and the quality of the food - it’s just mouth-watering. So, everybody tuck in!” All ten of us on our table turned to look at the quietly bubbling dish, wafting a savoury aroma towards us.  Then all of a sudden everybody was reaching into it with their chopsticks and lifting out pieces of prawn, chicken, pork and fish balls and tucking in.

The conversation turned more light-hearted and centred around the food rather than academics (Asian parents love to gossip about their children’s school lives, right?) as the layers of the pot were gradually eaten away, literally.  

At the end of the feast, a raffle was announced and all the small children crowded around the stage to cheer excitedly whenever any number was announced.  I won a small prize myself; coupons to Holly Brown’s gelato. Some of the bigger prizes included Coca-Cola merch (tall glasses and a huge locker to store everything, anyone?), a box of magic tricks and - you guessed it - ESF hats.  

Everyone went home that night full of pun choi and carrying some prize or another - a fine way to celebrate Hong Kong and RCHK culture, don’t you think?