A multicultural nation, Singapore celebrates different kinds of festivities all year round. Deepavali, Christmas, and yes, Chinese New Year — one of the most important festivals for the Chinese, not just in Singapore, but also in countries like Korea, China and Malaysia. Stretching over 15 days, the celebrations are robust with countdown parties, family gatherings, as well as chomping down on sinfully delicious goodies.

Usually gobbled down without a second thought, most Chinese New Year goodies hold more significance to the occasion than you may know. Inspired by many things including Chinese auspicious beliefs, Malay and Peranakan culture (we did say we’re a multicultural city) and legendary love affairs, uncover the stories behind some of these snacks and find out where to try them at Changi Airport.

Pineapple tarts — for a prosperous year ahead

Created by Peranakans (ethnic Chinese with Malay influences) pineapple tarts are painstakingly made by slow cooking pineapple extracts over a low fire until it is perfectly caramelised, then wrapped around a buttery pastry. In Hokkien (a Chinese dialect), pineapple is referred to as ‘ong lai’, which literally translates to ‘fortune come’. Thus, the pastries are thought to bring prosperity and luck to whoever consumes them.

Pineapple tarts from Fragrance

Another popular version of pineapple tarts includes the open-concept where the jam sits on the pastry

Kueh Bangkit — to rise against all odds

Another Chinese New Year snack with a Peranakan origin, kueh bangkit literally means ‘to rise’ — alluding to the way the biscuit rises when being baked. Crunchy to the bite and instantly melts in your mouth after, kueh bangkit comes in various shapes representing different meanings. For example, Chrysanthemum alludes to good fortune and goldfish symbolises prosperity. Playing on the name of the treat, some also believe that eating these tapioca cookies will help you overcome any challenges in the new year.

Kueh Bangkit from Bengawan Solo

Fun fact: In the past, Kueh bangkit was made in the shape of ancient China’s currency and used as ancestral offering

Bak Kwa — even Lady Luck can’t resist

In Chinese culture, red signifies luck and fortune. Bak kwa (dried meat), being red in colour, is therefore very popular during Chinese New Year. Sliced into thin sheets, marinated with sugar and spices, then grilled over charcoal, every bite into the succulent meat fills your mouth with smoky fragrance. It’s believed that whoever consumes the treat will have lady luck knocking on their door soon after!

Duck Bak Kwa from London Fat Duck

Bak kwa was first created in Fujian, China, where meat was considered a luxury and kept for special occasions

Love letters — do we smell romance in the air?

Village girls weren’t allowed to meet with boys in the past, so they would roll secret love letters into wafer biscuits and pass them on — giving rise to the snack’s name today. When your partner eats it, it also means to say that he or she has taken your word to heart. So remember to check the roll before you pop it into your mouth, you might receive a love letter of your own in one of them!

Love Letters from Bakery Cuisine

Love Letters are commonly rolled into cigar shapes or folded into a triangular fan-like shape

Shrimp rolls — for your happy ever after

Be it the colour, shape or ingredients used, almost everything consumed during Chinese New Year have underlying significance. In this case, more commonly known as hae bee hiam (dried shrimp), this savoury snack is made by wrapping up savoury dried shrimps — which represent good fortune and happiness — and deep-frying them into crispy golden-brown rolls that resemble gold bars — symbolising wealth.

Shrimp rolls from Bee Cheng Hiang

If you’re one to take spicy food, go ahead and try the shrimp rolls made with sambal (chilli)

Exclusively for Now Boarding readers

Where to get these treats in Changi Airport

Start the festive snacking the moment you land, or stock up on the goodies before you depart to share them with your loved ones back home! Whichever you do, here’s a list of places you can get your hands on these Chinese New Year treats.

 

Whether you believe in the auspicious significance of these Chinese New Year goodies, it still makes for fun facts to impress your friends with. So, arm yourself with these stories and remember them as you devour these snacks. Perhaps it’ll spark a greater appreciation of the Chinese culture and their food, or simply tantalise your taste buds — whichever the case, now you’ll have a bank of interesting stories to tell whenever the occasion arises.