The New Year serves as another bonding time for families living in the city

It is the big reunion ‘Chu Xi' – the eve of the passing year - at Shirley and Michael Li's residence in Secunderabad, as they get ready to welcome the Chinese New Year - this time the year of the dragon. It is an important year, named after the first and most important animal in the Chinese zodiac signs.

The table is spread with the goodies - sticky rice cake, prawn crackers, roast pork, Chicken chow with vegetables, fish dumplings in grass noodle soup and sea food chow made with exotic abalone sea snails. “It is a special dinner for us. We invite our relatives to dine with us,” says Shirley.

Gavin Liu, an entrepreneur in Liberty, adds “it is a hectic day as you have to make the things required for the festival at home. Products are not available in the market as there are few Chinese families here.”

There are about 50-60 Chinese families in the twin cities. The New Year is a special occasion that serves as a bonding time for families.

“Earlier we celebrated at my farm with a dragon dance and burning of crackers. There is a belief that the year continues on a good note if you start it with one,” says S.Y. Liu, president of the Hyderabad Overseas Chinese Friendship Association, who owns a hatchery and the popular Nan King restaurant in Parklane. The 53-year-old restaurant was started by his father. The first Chinese restaurant in the city was New Peking on SD Road, he says.

Restaurateur Michael Li came to Hyderabad in early 1970s. He recollects, “I worked with John Lee & Co, one of the oldest shops in the city. I started Chung Hua in Basheerbagh in 1983.”

The first generation of Chinese in the city came in 1920-30 as traders, recollects Mr. Liu. “They sold silk door-to- door during World War I and gradually set up restaurants. Today, the children of the current generation are working in the IT sector and BPOs,” says Mr. Liu.

Limoi works with Apollo Health Street. She and her siblings have studied in Hyderabad and visit China. “The celebrations spread across two weeks in China. But here life is so hectic,” says Vincent Li, her brother. “My children love idli, dosa and Mughlai food,” says Shirley pointing to the pot of biryani on the dinner spread and as a typical Hyderabadi she offers sweet – a Chinese toffee – with a parting ‘muh meetha karo'. Here's to the spirit of the city.