‘Xin’gaporean CNY Bakes
The gong sounds. That’s the signal for pulling down Christmas decorations for red-and-yellow ones; the staple colours for ushering in the ‘get-rich-quick’ season. And what with pineapple tarts, love letters, bakwa, and hae bee hiam rolls decking our supermarket aisles from shelves-to shelves, it’s a wonder that we never get bored of Chinese New Year snacks.Like many others, the moment this season swings around, my family rushes to the market to grab the best snacks. Then rushing back home, we critique the best CNY bakes for the year. By far and large, however, the best bakes tend to come from home bakers and Peranakan authentics—and I’m not saying this to promote any sort of agenda. I really mean that! What strikes me as odd, however, is that no matter how far back I go, I can’t seem to remember a year where I haven’t guzzled down a whole tin of pineapple tarts or love letters. Where on earth, then, do these bakes and their long heritages originate from? Having done some research to satiate my curiosity, here are some interesting origin stories for these prosperous ‘Xin’gaporean CNY bakes! Pineapple TartsThough these tantalising tarts come in an array of designs, their key ingredients remain the same: a perfect lick of pineapple jam, snugly tucked away in a soft and crispy pastry roll. Owing to its tempting and bite-sized shape, it really is all too easy for us to keep popping the snack in our mouths (…over and over and over)!
Such tarts were born from the meticulous hands of Peranakans, who, having learnt their tart-making skills from the Portuguese immigrants in the 16th and 17th centuries, proceeded to reap the benefits of Malaya’s pineapple plantations. Today, the yellow colour is meant to symbolise prosperity and fortune—as is the usual and prolific message of Chinese New Year. Even the Hokkien name is ‘Ong Lai’ (Fortune Come), which hits home the message once more (as if it wasn’t clear enough already)! Love LettersOtherwise known as 99% air and 1% letter, these thin pastries seem to be inspired by traditional Dutch waffles. In turn, they were localised by Malays and Peranakans, who chose to thoughtfully incorporate coconut milk and rice flour instead.
Made in many forms, it can be enjoyed in its cylindrical shape, or as a ‘folded letter.’ Yet, while the snack is ubiquitously enjoyed by many Singaporeans today, back then, these love letters were used in a rather romantic manner. One lover would give the Love Letter, and if the other consumed it, this meant that they accepted their love. Indeed, where words fail, food speaks. We have our ancestors to thank for that. Kueh BangkitKueh Bangkit (i.e. the driest possible snack alive) comprises coconut milk, pandan, and tapioca or sago. At this point—and it seems tireless to say this—we owe this wonderful creation to the minds of Peranakans.
As it happens, while pineapple tarts and love letters can be classed as spin-offs that were modified from other recipes, the kueh bangkit is the big ‘O’ word: original. It also details a rather riveting history, where it was baked as altar offerings for ancestors. In evolving over the years, different shapes now signify different meanings. The common chrysanthemum shape means ‘good fortune,’ and the less common one is the goldfish shape, which signifies ‘prosperity.’ Wait, money again? Check out (Xin)gapore’s Home Baking Scene!Our baking scene changes with the passing seasons, and here are some home bakeries which are selling these tasty treats!
Reference: https://www.instagram.com/p/CYwJfLyv8MN/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link @tarollroll has decided to go traditional this year, and kept with the CNY momentum of chrysanthemum kueh bangkits and pineapple tarts. At the same time, they’ve also turned out some new flavours with their chocolate almond crunchies and cashew nut cookies. Yummy!
2. Ding Bakery
Reference: https://www.instagram.com/p/CWca-Hnrm3f/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link @cnygoodies.sg has also gone with the customary mouth-watering treats. With their award-winning pineapple tarts and kueh bangkits, their bakes are sure to leave you wanting for more.
3. Yang’s Favourites
Reference: https://www.instagram.com/p/CY3seTrPDJZ/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link Our final contender prepared for the CNY rush period early! @yangsfavourites rolled out a generous bundle set of 6 mixed tins in a set of $108. Head on over to check if their sales are still going on. What about non-traditional bakes?If you’re also looking into gifting CNY snacks to your relatives, why not snag some that are a little out of the ordinary? Our other article on unique CNY bakes talks about eight possible bakes you could get from (Xin)gapore’s home baking scene—so head on over and check it out!