The Chinese New Year goodies scene is bursting at the seams with festive nosh competing for a place on every home’s coffee table. We trawled food fairs and bakeries (and piled on the calories!) to sift out the ones that are worth your attention – from traditional staples to new-fangled flavours and even a dairy-free bake.
CNY GOODIES: PINEAPPLE TARTS
The aroma of freshly-baked pineapple tarts. The crumble of a buttery pastry. It’s hard to beat home-made pineapple tarts, especially when Mum has perfected hers over the years – but these ones come close.
Ollella’s Golden Pineapple Balls ($36, 16 pieces) boasts dark brown jam that is pulpy and tangy. A golden globe ensconces it, complementing its rich, but not cloying, caramelised sweetness, with a soft and cushy pastry.
Equally gratifying is Cedele’s Pineapple Pocket Pie (from $22.80 a tub) that can be polished off in two bites. Tasters liked that the moreish jam is more zesty than sweet, polishing up to six pieces at a go, although some of us felt that it could do with more pastry.
We used to think that tarts wrapped in single serve packs are dull, but the ones from Old Seng Choong proved us wrong. Picky tart connoisseurs will enjoy the sticky strands in the zesty jam of its Yuzu Pineapple Tarts ($23.84, 10 pieces). The pastry could be more buttery, but it’s satisfying nonetheless.
Why add a sour ingredient to an already-sour filling? It works though, in Provisions’ Lime Pineapple Tarts ($21.80, 16 pieces). The citrusy flavour is fresh and pronounced, although the jam is denser than how some of us would have liked it.
CNY GOODIES: KUEH BANGKIT, LOVE LETTERS AND COOKIES
Our criteria for the quintessential kueh bangkit? It should crumble into a lush mess in the mouth (not in the hand), sport a lively coconut flavour balanced by a light sweetness. Our top picks are from Baker’s Well ($24.70), HarriAnn’s ($20.90) and Little Nonya’s Cookies ($20). Others we tried were either bland, floury or exuberantly sweet.
In the league of modern Asian cookies, we like how Antoinette’s classy Kopi Susu Cookies ($10) leaves a bittersweet kopi note after every bite. And that these mounds, delicately shaped like petite flowers, adds elegance to our buffet. For a varietal that is less robust but more buttery, there is Pantler’s Coffee Chocolate Cookies ($5.50). The java taste is more mellow, with a milky flavour – you’ll like this if you are a latte or mocha person.
From Cedele, we are adding Jasberry Rice Vanilla Shortbread ($21.50) to our annual to-buy list, which is ruled by its signatures like Chocolate Chip Macadamia, Earl Grey Tea Cookies and Espresso Crunch. At the blind taste test, tasters swooned over the light and crumbly texture of the shortbread. The vanilla flavour stands out, while the Jasberry Rice (a strain of rice which is purple in colour) adds a regal marbling effect, and a crunchiness to the cookie.
The flavours in the Mala Cookies ($17.82) from Old Seng Choong are redolent of those in gai zai paeng or Kampar Chicken Biscuit, a common Malaysian snack baked with fermented bean curd and five-spice powder. The difference is that the Mala Cookies are smaller and thicker, and leaves a pleasing spiciness at the end of each one.
Love letters are aplenty, and admittedly, there are too many for us to try them all. But we were disappointed that we did not find more that are as good as Baker’s Well’s Signature Nonya Love Letters ($24.70). They are shorter and smaller (more tightly-rolled) than regular ones and delightful with an aromatic Lemak flavour that is lacking in poorer cousins. Write to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) should you have good eggy rolls to recommend.