The bitter and sweet of festive veggies


‘Gourd’ riddance: Customers usually avoid buying bitter gourd for Chinese New Year as they prefer sweet-tasting vegetables to bring in positive experiences.

JOHOR BARU: The bitter gourd, usually consumed for its cooling effects and other health benefits, is particularly unpopular during Chinese New Year.

A vegetable seller known only as Beh said she does not order bitter gourd from her supplier in the days leading up to the lunar celebration as her customers tend to avoid it.

“The word ‘bitter’ in the vegetable’s name evokes a negative connotation among the Chinese, who emphasise good and auspicious sayings during the festive season.

“The bitter taste is also a turn-off for many, as the older generation and the superstitious believe in eating sweet-tasting food during Chinese New Year to bring in positive experiences for the coming year,” she said when interviewed.

Apart from bitter gourd, other less popular vegetables during the lunar season are sweet potato leaves and kangkung.

She added that vegetables such as leeks, Chinese lettuce and Chinese cabbage are popular during this period.

“Royale chives are also sought after during this time because the name ‘qing long cai’ translates to green dragon vegetables and it will be the Year of the Dragon. These greens, also known as festive vegetables, are must-haves for many as their name has auspicious meanings,” said Beh.

Another vegetable seller, Susan Ho, said customers avoid the bitter gourd not only because of its name but also because of its price.

“I decided not to sell bitter gourd since last week because the price had increased to RM15/kg from RM8/kg due to the wet season.

“However, I still get a small handful of customers who want to buy it to stuff fish and meat to make the Hakka-style yong tau fu dish,” she said.

Ho added that she has stocked up on festive veggies such as cauliflower and cabbage.

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