As mentioned prior, food offerings are often tailored to your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents' palates.
"Which is why dishes differ from one state to another and depending on whether you are Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka or Teow Chew," says Mark. "In Penang, for example, you might have Nyonya dishes such as Ju Hu Char (fried jicama), Curry Kapitan (Captain's Curry) and Tau Yew Bak (braised pork belly in soya sauce). In Kuala Lumpur, dishes will skew Cantonese. But if your ancestors adhered to a vegetarian diet, no meat is allowed as an offering."
Those who pay close attention to prayer altars may notice that dishes are accompanied by three bowls of rice, three sets of chopsticks and three cups of Chinese tea or rice wine. "They represent the three realms—heaven, earth and the underworld," explains Ng.
Speaking of food symbolism, these are some popular food items associated with the Hungry Ghost Festival: