UCL News


Time to celebrate, and time to eat! Exploring the delicious recipes of April's religious festivals

14 April 2023

From Eid to Qingming Jie, and from Easter to Passover, it's time for many religious festivals all over the UCL community. UCL Student journalist Marilyn Tan takes a look at the delicious foods and recipes we celebrate with.


With Spring having sprung, days are getting longer, warmer, and sunnier for all. For UCL, Spring is teeming with many cultural and religious celebrations across our community. As Qingming Jie (5 April), Passover (5-13 April), Easter (9 April), Vaisakhi (14 April), and Eid (21-22 April) approach, we thought we’d focus on one aspect that everyone looks forward to in each celebration: food! We asked students and staff at UCL about their favourite festive dish, its significance, and – for those eager to try them – restaurant or recipe recommendations. 

Qingming Jie  
(A Chinese holiday, also called Tomb-Sweeping Day, where people show respect to their ancestors in time for the start of Spring)  

Jenna Zhang, first-year Psychology and Language Sciences BSc 

Favourite Qingming Jie food 
“Chhau-a-koe (草仔粿). It’s a chewy, sticky snack made from glutinous flour, sugar, and Jersey cudweed paste. The filling consists of a sweet paste with various nuts.” 

What makes it memorable or special to you? 
“During the Qingming period, my grandma would always make these pastries and serve them on big leaves. It was always a happy childhood memory of mine, where me and my cousins would gather together and share the snack.” 

Recommendations in London 
“It’s quite difficult to find this food here in the UK, since this snack is usually homemade. Similar snacks to this include the sticky pumpkin cake (南瓜餅), which I believe can be found in restaurants at Chinatown.” 


(A Jewish holiday that celebrates the story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt)  

Anthony Orkin, Antisemitism Programme Manager at UCL 

Favourite Passover dish  
Matzah ball soup 

What makes it memorable or special to you? 
“‘Passover’ or ‘Pesach’ is the holiday of freedom. It’s a wonderful time to spend with family and friends at the dinners or ’seders’ when we celebrate the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian enslavement over 3,000 years ago and retell the story. Having a warm bowl of matzah ball soup, using a recipe handed down through generations, is very special, particularly while living in the UK where the weather is very different from South Africa and Australia, where I used to live.” 

Anthony has kindly provided a recipe for matzah ball soup, right here, for those wanting to try their hand at the dish: 

Matzo Ball Soup

(A Christian festival that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus)  

Rev'd Reid Humble, Chaplain and Interfaith Advisor at UCL 

Favourite Easter food  
Hot cross buns on Good Friday 

What makes it special or significant to you? 
“The cross on it symbolises the cross that Jesus was crucified on, and also the sultanas and spices inside are thought by some traditions to symbolise the spices used to embalm Jesus’ body. For me personally, we – I say we, actually my wife, because I often work on Good Friday– will bake hot cross buns on Friday which has become our personal food tradition.  

When it comes to Easter day, our food tradition is less a food but more a drink: Easter day is always champagne for us. Not that there is anything really symbolic about champagne although it does come from monks, but Easter is the greatest festival of the Church this year and it’s when we have the biggest celebrations. Champagne symbolises that festivity so we always have champagne in addition to the tea and coffee after church services. There is something about Easter which is just a kind of purely gratuitous and excessive celebration– abundance is what it’s all about!” 

Recommendations in London 
Aside from the obvious choice of store-bought hot cross buns, Reid, having only moved to London last August, has yet to try a hot cross bun here but is looking forward to trying those in Gail’s and St. John Bakery. 

Rev Reid Humble

(A Sikh and Hindu Spring harvest festival, also commemorating the founding of the Khalsa, the Sikh community) 

Hiral Kochar, third-year Economics BSc 

Favourite Vaisakhi dishes 
Kadhi-chawal (yoghurt curry prepared by mixing curd, besan, and spices), sarson ka-saag (curry cooked with mustard greens and spices), and makki ki roti (flatbread from cornmeal) 

What makes these dishes special?  
“Farmers celebrate this day by thanking mother earth for a good harvest. In the Punjab, they wear new clothes and visit the gurdwara where ‘Guru ka langar’ is organised and the community comes together to share a meal with dishes such as sarson ka saag, makki ki roti, kadi chawal and yellow dal. Yellow and orange are the traditional colours of Vaisakhi, which is why most of the famous Vaisakhi dishes are yellow. This colour represents the spirit of rebirth and sacrifice of the Panj Pyare (term for the Five Beloved, the men initiated into the Khalsa), but these are also the colours of celebration.  

When Vaisakhi is celebrated in the Punjab, the golden yellow wheat fields are ready to be harvested. My grandma always cooks sarson ka-saag and makki ki roti on auspicious days like Vaisakhi and Gurupurab (celebration of the birth of the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak) for our family. She thinks of it as ‘prasad’ i.e. holy food that’s meant to be shared with love. Now that I’m in London, I like to go for langar (free kitchen) at the Gurdwara to get this meal. Whenever I have it, I am reminded of her and how no-one can beat her saag!” 

Restaurant recommendations in London 
Madhu’s Brasserie is my go-to restaurant in London for kadi-chawal and authentic Indian food.”  


Eid al-Fitr
(A Muslim festival that marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting) 

Adira Yahya, third-year Economics BSc 

Favourite dish  
“The food associated with Eid varies among cultures and regions. In Malaysia, Eid is celebrated with traditional local food. My favourite is beef rendang – it’s an Indonesian/Malaysian meat dish made of beef or chicken which is slow cooked in coconut milk and spices. It takes over three hours to cook, so the dish is traditionally reserved for special occasions like Eid and paired with rice or Ketupat (rice cake wrapped in palm leaves), another Eid staple.” 

What makes the dish memorable or special to you? 
“My family never cooks it, but we still have it every Eid and at every single “open house” (where people host big gatherings in their home). Whenever rendang is out on the table you know that there’s a fat food coma coming after the whole meal.”  

Restaurant recommendations in London

Beef rendang

The interviewer gets interviewed:  

As for me, celebrating Qingming Jie and Easter is a laid-back affair for my family. Even though it isn’t strictly a traditional Qingming Jie dish, we’ve loosely celebrated by having tang yuan– glutinous rice balls filled with red bean or sesame or something else equally delicious.

When I crave comfort food that reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking I gravitate towards Din Tai Fung, although I’m trying to branch out to smaller restaurants such as Xi Home Dumplings and Buns. Poon’s, who are incidentally running a pop-up wontoneria around the corner from UCL on Charlotte Street, makes the best wontons.

I’m also spoilt for choice if I’m craving Singaporean local food – Rasa Sayang and Old Chang Kee are my favourites. As for Easter, I’ve been dutifully supporting Cadbury’s Mini Eggs’ business and am looking forward to a roast lunch on Easter Sunday! 



Marilyn Tan is a third-year student in the BA English programme with an interest in Colonial and Postcolonial literature, Asian-American literature, and music. She has started to consider a career in journalism this year through the UCL VPEE Student Journalism Scheme. She aims to use this opportunity to explore her current interests alongside topics in healthcare and medicine in preparation for her Master’s in Medical Anthropology at Oxford this October.