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  • Writer's pictureThe Beverly Arts

Master Chef Tony Hu Talks About Food, Traditions, and the Dongzhi Festival

Master Chef Tony (Xiaojun) Hu

Master Chef Tony (Xiaojun) Hu, the founder of the Lao Sze Chuan restaurants, and winner of a Los Angeles Beverly Arts (LABA) Icon Award, was recently interviewed by Chicago's WGN Weekend Morning News about the Dongzhi Festival, the Winter Solstice Festival in China. He talked about the food and traditions that date back over 2,000 years ago, and demonstrated the preparation of tangyuan, a rice flour ball filled with sweetened black sesame seeds and other ingredients such as pumpkin seeds or peanuts. They are usually served in a warm broth or syrup made of sweet pandan leaves, ginger, and sugar. Today, they are served at weddings, family reunions, Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival, and other events when families get together and share meals, particularly for those in the regions of Southern China. In Northern China, dumplings are more often served that are stuffed with lamb or other meats, and served warm with other ingredients including ginger and garlic. The festival is celebrated by Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other cultures around the world and is a time that families come together to share a traditional meal, very much like our Thanksgiving here in the U.S.

Dongzhi is a Chinese word that can mean either “winter’s extreme” or “winter’s arrival.” The festival was first celebrated in China during the Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC–256 BC), and was later declared an official celebration during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 BC). The Dongzhi Festival is a one-day celebration that occurs every year on the winter solstice, between December 21 and 23, and symbolizes union, togetherness, and completeness. The festival is rooted in the ancient philosophy of yin and yang, representing harmony and balance in the universe. On the darkest days of winter solstice, negative yin energy is at its peak, and then after the solstice, the positive yang energy begins to increase as spring approaches and the daylight hours lengthen. In the past, it was celebrated like the beginning of a new year, with Chinese New Year in February being the more significant and elaborate celebration.

Lao Sze Chuan in Chicago, Illinois

About Master Chef Tony Hu and Lao Sze Chuan

Master Chef Tony (Xiaojun) Hu is a celebrity chef, restaurateur, culinary teacher, mentor, and community leader who lives in the Chicago area. Hailing from China’s Sichuan province, Chef Tony graduated from The Culinary Institute of Sichuan, China’s premier culinary institute in 1989. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1993, as a special technician chef, and established himself in Chicago as a trailblazer for authentic Sichuan cuisine, at a time when the area was dominated by Cantonese cuisine. The very first Lao Sze Chuan opened in 1998 in Chicago’s Chinatown and has since become one of the most beloved Chinese restaurants with many locations. Lao Sze Chuan is not only recognized locally as the Best Chinese Restaurant in Chicago by multiple publications but has also received numerous national accolades including “The Best Chinese Restaurant”; “The Most Authentic Chinese Food”; one of the “Top Ten Chinese Restaurants in the U.S.”; “Best Chinese Restaurant for Celebrating Chinese New Year,” and many others.

The Beverly Arts News is sponsored by The Beverly Arts Foundation



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