Chinese New Year gifts: what to buy

Impress thy neighbour (not to mention family and friends) with these treats

We all know that alcohol and tea are good Chinese New Year presents, but what if you need to grab a last-minute gift appropriate for your ayi, neighbour, Chinese teacher or Chinese co-workers?

In that case, buy these easy firm favourites. Not only are they good value, they're sure to bring a smile to the receiver.

Old Beijing confectionary

Great for kids, the elderly, parents, Beijingers and basically anyone you like.

Boxed gift sets of old Beijing confectionary are by far the most popular gifts between friends and neighbours in Beijing, and also your safest bet – especially if the receiver is above the age of 40 (they'll be super impressed you have such local knowledge).

Head to any branch of traditional bakeries before Thursday and there's bound to be a line snaking out of the front door.

Of the brands, Daoxiangcun is the absolute favourite, especially with Beijingers. All the confectionery on their shelves is freshly made (within a few days).

You can buy pre-packaged sweet flavoured classics such as Jingbajian (京八件) which translates as 'the eight treasures of Beijing', or ask to have your own box of treasures made up. Simply point to what you want and they'll fill up the red gift box.

Not to be missed are the ox tongue cakes (牛舌饼 niushebing, pictured). Or go for the rose petal cake (鲜花玫瑰饼 xianhuameiguibing).

Daoxiangcun have over 20 branches in Beijing. To avoid the queues, head to one of their lesser-known branches that's not on a main street or popular tourist area. Supermarket outlets or branches in residential compounds are a good bet.

Donkey gelatin (阿胶 ejiao)

Great for women, the elderly and the sickly.

This is a popular gift and treated as a delicacy with health benefits according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The gelatin is extracted from the skin of donkeys' hind legs through a somewhat complex process, and it's generally thought to have skin-revitalising properties.

It is particularly recommended for women and the elderly and comes in a powder form, jelly or as a bar. The best is from Shandong province and comes in a fancy box – the most popular brand is Gujiao which sells boxes of the bar or in snack form in a rose petal flavoured sticky dessert with nuts in.

Multigrain (五谷杂粮 wuguzaliang

Great for health-conscious hipsters, anyone who likes porridge and the elderly

This is not just cereal, if that's what you are thinking and usually includes an assortment of grains and rice, including the five main grains: rice (brown and sticky), millet, wheat and red beans. They are sold in pretty packaging in supermarkets and at all pharmacies and health shops.

Danish Butter Cookies

Great for grandparents, parents, elderly, kids, families.

Danish butter cookies

You might not think they are special, but these have become firm favourites with young and old in the last year, partly because they have become widely available in supermarkets and shops, in particular, the Kjeldsens brand.

But they're still viewed as imported goods, and a lot more highbrow than they are in Denmark (or elsewhere in Europe, for that matter), in the same way that Ferrero Rocher are in China. If you need something with a 'foreign' factor, then this is a good choice.

Dried fruit and nuts

Great for parents and in-laws, families, friends, and the elderly.

Again, dried fruit and nuts are nothing special, but in China they can be quite pricey and are therefore often seen as a bit of a treat for small-scale semi-formal snacking.

Dried dragon eye fruit (干桂圆 gan guiyuan)is a delicacy and can be added to porridges or stews. Alternatively, an assortment of nuts (flavoured ones are popular) in special gift boxes or on their own will be appreciated by all.

Dates from Xinjiang both huge and delicious. A few sets of high-quality gift box dates can set you back a few hundred kuai, or these popular Hetianyu renditions will do the trick.

Ferrero Rocher

Great for everyone.

Ferrero Rocher are incredibly popular in China, and rightly so. They're gold, and round: the two symbols of prosperity. Plus there is still plenty of decadence attached to the little balls here in China.

If you're in a rush, pick up a box from 7-Eleven (where it's a lot more expensive than the supermarkets) and whoever gets them will feel extra special.

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