Christmas is the busiest day of the year for many Chinese restaurants. It’s not uncommon for non-Christians and singles to pick up a pair of chopsticks on this holiday. But more and more people are lining up for a less traditional Christmas lunch.
The kitchen at House of Hong in Seattle’s International District is always bustling, but the Christmas day rush has cooks on overdrive. Food is everywhere, waiting to be wrapped and steamed. An entire walk-in freezer is filled with marinating meat. The preparation started weeks before the holiday.
“A lot of cutting,” said Ann Tu, manager of House of Hong. “A lot of vegetables need to be cut up and a lot of meat needs to be prepared and marinated.”
Tu says the cooks spend most of their holiday prep hand-wrapping pieces of dim sum.
"Every day, they’re wrapping and wrapping, and wrapping, and preparing for the big day,” she said.
The restaurant’s huge dining hall sees a good crowd most afternoons. But the usual lunch rush pales in comparison to their busiest day on Christmas.
“People are literally waiting out the door,” Tu said.
House of Hong boasts about 400 seats, and Tu says the restaurant can’t even take reservations on Christmas because there’s simply no room for empty tables.
“It’s a tradition,” Tu said. “A lot of people have traditions that they like to come and do Dim Sum. And we have a lot of customers who are return customers, and they know we’re open so they bring their families. Everybody comes. After they open the presents, they’ll come and they’ll have dim sum.”
Tu says she has to schedule her staff months in advance, adding extra cooks, dishwashers and wait staff. And when you add in all the diners, she says it feels like one big happy family.
They bring us gifts. It’s a great time for everybody, I think, for our customers and the staff here, too,” she said.
If you miss the celebration on Christmas day, Tu says they also get a big crowd on Chinese New Year at the end of January. You’ll still get all the dim sum, but you’ll miss out on the Christmas music.