Ahhh, it’s that time of the year again: Chinese New Year. The festivities are great to spend with friends, family and extended family, many of whom you only meet once a year. (The empty roads and holidays don’t hurt either!)
Aside from the reunion dinner, the living room table won’t be complete without an assortment of snacks to munch on as you chat, watch TV or lose yourself in a game of 21.
Here’s a list of must-have Chinese New Year snacks that every household should have on hand.
1. Pineapple tarts
This is an absolute favourite that disappears in a flash once a new container is opened. The sweet-sour pineapple jam filling is complemented with the slightly salty, buttery pastry around it, making it rather irresistible to kids and adults.
With the Hokkien dialect of pineapple (ong lai) literally meaning prosperity or good fortune, it’s no wonder these baked goodies with an auspicious connotation are a staple for Chinese New Year.
2. Beehive/honeycomb cookies
Drawing its name from its similarities to the honeycomb, this crispy treat is another indication that the festive season is around the corner.
Crunchy and sweet, kids (and some adults) like to bite it down by sections for a more fun snacking experience. Light and easy-to-eat, it’s hard to stop at just one once you start.
3. Kuih kapit/love letters
It is said this beloved biscuit gets its name from the lore where forbidden lovers imprinted their messages onto an edible canvas so as to eliminate evidence of contact easily.
Whether one prefers to eat this rolled or folded into quarters, both versions are universally liked and make for a nice gift to friends and relatives during this time of year.
4. Bak Kwa
The popularity of Bak Kwa cannot be understated, as one can usually see stalls popping up beside the road selling the tempting treat weeks before Chinese New Year.
Once considered a luxury, it holds a special place in Chinese tradition. Sweet and smoky, this dried jerky-like snack is so, so good, but do watch out for its high calorie count and eat in moderation!
5. Nian Gao/glutinous rice cakes
Nian Gao is also known as New Year cakes and are often placed at the altar as an offering to the gods and ancestors.
These rock-hard “cakes” might seem hardly appetising at first glance, but don’t let that drive you away. Once battered and deep fried – some like it wedged between slices of sweet potato and yam – they’re a delicacy to be coveted.
6. Nga Ku/arrowroot chips
Reminiscent of potato chips, Nga Ku chips are actually made from thinly sliced arrowroot bulbs. Crispy and savoury, they will leave you hooked in no time so proceed with caution!
A well-loved addition to the table, the absence of this snack will surely draw a few raised eyebrows during family gatherings.
7. Mini spring rolls
These mini popiah-shaped rolls are made by wrapping a layer of wonton skin around a small mound of prawn floss and then deep-frying the whole thing. Some versions of it use pork or chicken floss as well.
Delicious either way, many would say the OG prawn floss is the best, as prawns symbolise happiness in Chinese culture.
8. Fried crab sticks
Fried crab sticks are easy to make – simply tear the crab stick filaments into thin strips and deep-fry.
Remember to control the temperature of the oil as hurrying the process but letting the temperature go too high will only burn the crab sticks.
Have a little patience and you’ll be rewarded with these addictive bites that’s perfect with carbonated drinks.