Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A carnival of races

May 15. 2019
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Not only is the Dragon Boat Festival a major celebration in the Lunar calendar, but it’s also pushed dragon boat racing into the limelight as a sport in its own right. As the birthplace of modern dragon boat racing, Hong Kong is celebrates the festival next month with a series of competitive races and cultural activities.

Now in its tenth edition, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival will feature an action-packed programme.

The dragon boat, a long canoe carved with a decorative dragon head and tail and painted with totems, embodies the venerable creature in Chinese mythology. 

“Traditionally, dragon boats and paddles are made from teak and camphorwood and there are three different boat sizes. Today in international races, the stronger fibreglass is used and the boats are standardised in size,” says HKCDBA chairman Arnold Chung Chi Lok.

While dragon boat racing is practised throughout the world year-round nowadays, Hong Kong is the world’s first to organise invitation races, and has been hosting a major carnival since 2010 to promote the sport. 

Dragon Boat Festival celebrations in Hong Kong are heated. In addition to wellknown races in Stanley, Shatin and Aberdeen on June 7, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival will push the festivities to the summit in the weekend that follows (June 14 to 16).

One can expect to witness vigorous battles among some of the world’s strongest dragon boat teams at the threeday carnival. Previously a Hong Kong dragon boat team member and coach, Chung said that it is no easy feat to paddle in Victoria Harbour: “The deep, wavy water poses a great challenge. That said, the atmosphere is wonderful, especially when you see spectators lining the harbourfront to cheer on the teams.”

This year will surely be more exciting for Thai spectators, as the Thailand Dragon Boat Team and the CU Dragon Boat Team will be participating in the competitive races.

Conventional races aside, there will be a “Fancy Dress Competition”, while a funfilled playground with a manmade beach, a “Splash Area”, the Street Food Gala, the newly introduced Artisanal Market and more will be set up at the Central Harbourfront – and entrance is free for all.

The Dragon Boat Festival wouldn’t be complete without the festive food – glutinous rice dumplings. Theresa Mak, cook, food writer and top apprentice of Cantonese cuisine authority Pearl Kong Chen, makes dumplings at home every Dragon Boat Festival. She recalls “In the 1940s and 50s, people were eating small, almost bite-size savoury dumplings made of glutinous rice, mung beans and braised pork belly.”

Today, the bigger, leafwrapped steamed rice dumplings which contain a greater variety of ingredients, from salted egg yolk to roast duck, roast pork, dried scallops, Jinhua ham and shiitake mushrooms, can easily feed two to three people.

Another choice is the sweet lye water dumpling, made with yellow tinted sticky rice and a lotus paste filling. Visitors should also try other regional variations available in Hong Kong, such as Zhongshan’s reedwrapped rice dumplings and the famous Shanghainese rice dumplings from Jiaxing and Huzhou.

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