We suss out Chinese New Year favourites from the old school bakeries in our midst
It’s that time of the year again for crazy long queues at the bak kwa shops, so expect to wait over an hour at Lim Chee Guan, one of Singapore’s oldest bak kwa merchants, best known for its signature sliced pork jerky. The meat is roasted on-site over a charcoal fire just before it’s packed and sold. With its smoky flavour packed with caramel and umami flavours, the bak kwa is perfect with ice cold beer on hot Chinese New Year afternoons.
203 New Bridge Road. Tel: 6933 7230
Often compared to madeleines, kueh bahulu—fluffy, flower-shaped cakes with a crusty exterior—are essential in the Chinese New Year cake tray. Stock up on your stash at family-run Warisan Recipes, where they are made from owner Madam Zainab’s traditional family recipe. Their cakes retain a moist, sponge-like consistency long after they’ve been baked, which is a rarity as most kueh bahulu tend to harden and dry out.
$5.50 per jar
#01-591, Block 25 Bendemeer Road. Tel: 6297 9668
What’s Chinese New Year without pineapple tarts? Another symbolism-rich festive snack, pineapple tarts play up on how the Mandarin word for pineapple sounds like ‘beckoning wealth to arrive’. The tarts at LE Cafe Confectionery & Pastry are plump, golden ingots with just the right crumbly texture and buttery richness. Get yours early as prices increase as it gets closer to Chinese New Year.
From $15.50 per box of 10; minimum orders apply
David Elias Building, 264 Middle Road. Tel: 6337 2417; Go to their website for other outlets
Kueh bangkit is a traditional Chinese New Year staple with Nonya origins. These chalky white cookies, shaped as flowers, are crunchy to the bite, but dissolves into a sweet, ethereal, coconut-infused delight on your tongue. Family-run chain Harrianns’s take on this traditional snack is delightfully moist and fragrant, based on a 70-year-old recipe passed down by current owner Alan Tan’s grandmother.
$10.50 per jar
#01-01A Bugis Junction Towers, 230 Victoria Street. Tel: 6238 1200
Symbolising health and vitality, bars of peanut candy are a welcome treat during Chinese New Year, for their sweet, nutty flavour and light crunch. Koh Sun Liang of Sze Thye Cake Shop has been making
peanut candy for more than 50 years. He runs the shop on his own and uses Indian peanuts, sesame
seeds and white sugar to make these sweet treats.
#01-4795, Block 2 Beach Road. Tel: 9658 1286
The dahlia biscuit, or kueh semperit, has always been a favourite with kids, with its swirling flower shape topped with a single red bead of glacé cherry. Screaming 1960s retro good looks, these evergreen butter cookies are yet another common sight during Chinese New Year. Dona Manis Cake Shop’s version is a must-have, baked to a light golden brown and which breaks up into an aromatic, intensely buttery crumble in your mouth.
$19 per jar
B1-93 Katong Shopping Centre, 865 Mountbatten Road. Tel: 6440 7688
According to myth, this very traditional cake made of glutinous rice flour and wrapped in banana leaves was originally made to sweeten the mouth, or seal the lips, of the kitchen god as he made his yearly visit to the Jade Emperor to report on the goings-on of the family. These days, it embodies a wish for sweetness all round and family reunions. Chop Tai Chong Kok, a stalwart bakery shop in Chinatown, makes its nian gao with recipes passed down from patriarch Tham Kai Chee, who came to Singapore in the 1930’s. The lengthy preparation involves steaming the cake for eight hours.
34 Sago Street. Tel: 6227 5701; Go to their website for other outlets
The history behind this new year goodie is a romantic one—secret messages were said to have been exchanged between lovers via these crispy egg rolls, leaving no trace after they are eaten. This light, crispy wafer is made of egg, flour, coconut milk and sugar. Try the light-as-a-feather rolls from Mirana Cake House—they literally melt in your mouth with a burst of fragrant coconut flavour with just a gentle bite.
$20 per jar
#B1-K1 Chevron House, 30 Raffles Place. Tel: 6536 0062; Go to their website for other outlets
And something a little different: SuperNature Bak Kwa
If you’re determined to keep to your health-conscious mantra even during the festive season, try bak kwa made exclusively for SuperNature by Kim Joo Guan. This sweet meat is made with free-range pork from Linley Valley, Western Australia, ensuring that it’s free of antibiotics and growth hormones. The meat is as succulent, smoky and moreish as you’d expect from your traditional barbecues.
From $48 for 500g, available by pre-order only.
#B1-05/09 Forum The Shopping Mall; Go to their website for other outlets
This was first published in Wine & Dine’s January 2017 issue – Chinese New Year ‘Festive Morsels’
Styling: Priscilla Tan