Kneading CNY Goodies!
By Tim Wee
January 22, 2014
After spelling out the commonplace Chinese New Year (CNY) superstitions last week, we are keeping the festive mood going by powering on. This week, we bring you the back story behind some of the essential CNY dietary staples that you simply can’t miss out on!
The baskets of CNY treat that we just can’t say no to!
Photos sourced from scene.sg and foodjunkiechronicles.net
As with everything associated with CNY, each food item which is laid out on the table actually carries with it a significant meaning. In line with the saying, “You are what you eat”, every snack laid out for family and friends conveys an underlying symbolism or sentiment for the upcoming year. Usually, they cover every aspect of life from work, love, luck; yeah it’s mainly about luck.
There is meaning in everything we do and EAT!
Photo sourced from sg.openrice.com
So, put on a comfortable pair of pants and hold on to your dibbling saliva as we eat our way through the buffet of CNY snacks! Without further ado, lets unravel the tale behind 10 of our favourite CNY treats...
Open or closed? Choose your pineapple tarts!
Photos sourced from bakingncooking.wordpress.com and kitchentigress.blogspot.sg
With origins in different parts of Asia, pineapple pastries are a prominent part of the CNY celebrations. While we are used to having the tart form of this delicacy, it is more commonly found as a cake in Taiwan!
Even in its tart form, this beloved dessert has grown in its variations over the years. Now available in an ‘open-faced’ or ‘pillowed’ option, this small piece of sweet heaven is said to usher in prosperity for the New Year. Come to think of it, pineapple in the Hokkien dialect is called ong lai. And, that is roughly translated to mean “prosperity has come”!
Coming in all shapes and sizes, the irresistible kueh bolu!
Photos sourced from mysimplefood.com and happyflour.blogspot.sg
Another local CNY favourite, kueh bolu is a fluffy little sponge cake. Similar to the French madeleine, this little cake probably took root during the Portuguese rule of South East Asia.
Traditionally shaped in the form of a flower, these sweet cookie-like cakes are particularly a hit with kids. Made over charcoal fire in the old days, the spongy treats serve as a sweet start to the year!
Are you a floral or animal kind of kueh bangkit guy?
Photos sourced from carolynchan.wordpress.com and dianasdesserts.com
Starting out as religious food offerings, kueh bangkit is actually a traditional Peranakan tapioca cookie. Originally made in the shape of ingots, these melt-in-your-mouth snacks now come in the form of flowers, butterflies or animals.
The bite-sized staple also ensured blissful tidings for the year ahead, promising good luck and fortune.
So, will it kueh lapis monochrome classic or Technicolor for you?
Photos sourced from epicureasia.com and singaporetravelholic.com
Known as the “Thousand Layer Cake”, kueh lapis has its origins steeps in the ethnic cultures of Indonesia and Malaysia. Taking root during colonial times, it is said to be the Dutch version of the tree ring inspired cake Baumkuchen.
Painstaking to make, this highly-prized cake is made of many thin layers which is marbled one on top of the other. The recipe for this moist pastry is also certainly not conservative with its generous portion of butter, sugar and egg yolks! Nonetheless, the addictive cake is definitely a good culinary excuse to stack up on our good fortune! Get yours now at Chinta Manis at SAFRA Mount Faber!
It’s no easy task to make love... letters
Photos sourced from thestar.com.my and satay.eniaga.gov.my
Rolled up like an ancient scroll, kueh kapit or better known as love letters is a thin battered wafer that most can’t do without over CNY. Made of coconut milk, rice and tapioca flour, sugar and eggs, the wafer roll usually comes imprinted with floral or animal representations.
Although it might seem like a simple task, the actual chore of rolling these piping hot wafers as they came out of the charcoal fire is no mean feat we can assure you! Resembling olden love letters (duh, hence its name), these roll served as an edible symbol of love and affection. By consuming it, it was also a sign that the heartfelt sentiment has been taken to heart (awwww).
How far will you go for a slice of divine bak kwa?
Photos sourced from voucherlicious.com and tnp.sg
Inspiring snaking long queues in Chinatown district, you know that the annual CNY has arrived once the crazy crowds begin lusting for bak kwa. The unbeatable sweet and salty combination of sliced barbeque pork is enough to send many into frenzy.
So, why is it such a treasured snack that people are willing to pay through their noses? Pronounced as Loong Yoke in the Cantonese dialect, it sounds uncannily to Dragon’s meat. With the Dragon revered as a prosperity Chinese symbol, you can easily understand the madness behind bak kwa. In fact, the demand is so good that there is even the option of beef kwa for added variety!
Double the orange fun with a pair of prosperity oranges
Photo sourced from fragrantica.com
What will be CNY be without some bling? And, they don’t come much brighter than the bright pair of Mandarin oranges that you bring on CNY visitations! Meaning good luck in Chinese, oranges are an important part of CNY. The colour itself carries with the significance of prosperity, happiness and good fortune.
Given as a pair during CNY, the oranges are said to form the number eight which is another marker of luck and prosperity. But, that’s not all. It is said that receiving an orange with a stem or leaf is symbol of fertility and a new addition will be welcomed into the family!
You can never have one seed too many during CNY
Photo sourced from guazi.cn
With everyone concerned at the falling national fertility rates, we can all rest easy this CNY by serving up more melon seeds! Symbolising harvest and abundance, melon seeds or gua zi is a good reminder of the many little ones to come. Implying “many sons”, this favourite snack is usually offered so that families will have many children to carry on the family line.
Get your “New Year High” with a serving of the sweet CNY nian gao
Photos sourced from flickr.com and herfrozenwings.blogspot.sg
A sticky cake only eaten in the New Year, the nian gao is a glutinous dessert which is also known as “New Year cake”. In addition, it should be noted that gao or cake has the dual meaning of high. Thus, you will be having a “New Year high” or starting your CNY on a high when you enjoy this sweet dish!
Photo sourced from hungrygowhere.com
More commonly known as lo hei, yu sheng is probably the most expensive salad in the world! Meaning “raw fish”, this must-have platter of grated vegetables, crushed peanuts, honey, oil, crisps and raw fish slices each symbolises different forms of prosperity.
How high can you go with your yu sheng?
Photo sourced from sloan.sg
But, that’s not all to it. This customary dish also incorporates a participatory aspect to it. As it is believed that the level of prosperity is dependent on how high the salad is tossed, everyone at the dining tables (kids included) is advised (or even encouraged, some might say) to use their chopsticks and raise the ingredients to great heights!
Hungry for these CNY staples?
Then be sure to pop by our SAFRA Chinese New Year Fairs to enjoy these festive treats!