Yes, it is finally that time of the year! Chinese New Year is approaching with only days away!
Once again, we bring out all the things that celebrate the essence of Chinese New Year, or perhaps in millennial lingo, the ‘Chinese New Year Starter Pack’. Red bamboo firecrackers that rip out a putrid smell after they cracked, maroon lanterns hanging on every ceiling on the front porch, the thundering yet familiar lion dances, your aunties and uncles posing nosy questions about your life and of course, the beloved snacks table displayed in everyone’s living room. From flaky, fragrant love letters to tender, salty bak kwas (Chinese jerky), and who could forget, the almighty auspicious pineapple tarts! Savoury, delicious pineapple tarts that we have no qualms finishing off half of the jar in a heartbeat.
Nothing screams ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ more than these buttery morsels. But, why are they so important? Why do they only appear in abundance during this very season? Well, these scrumptious goodies are said to be hailed from the Peranakans. They are called ‘Ong Lai’ in Hokkien, which simply means ‘prosperity comes’ in direct translation. As the Chinese tradition believes that luck and prosperity is extremely crucial, pineapple tarts have, therefore, become an important symbol and a must-have during this festive season. Popping 1 or 10 of them at one go has become the obligatory food ritual during Chinese New Year. Whether they are open-faced or encased in a pillow-shaped pastry, we love them all in whatever shapes and sizes they come in (hashtag no discrimination, no hate).
However, do not be deceived! These tasty bites may look cute and small, but they are definitely a huge pain in the neck to make them – hours of stirring the pineapple jam over the sweltering stove, moulding the dough and rolling out balls of pineapple jam. Bakers usually work their fingers to the bone to produce the perennial festive goodies. Honestly, we should not blame these bakers if they are cursing us behind our backs because the toil and dedication put into making these devilishly good tarts often go underappreciated. The production of pineapple tarts is a tedious and mammoth process that typically starts one month before Chinese New Year because most of the steps are still done by hand – from slicing and grating the pineapples to rolling the pineapple jam along with shaping the dough. This is to ensure that the best flavours are retained in the pastry. What is more shocking is that it takes a team of about 15 staffs to turn out more than 90,000 pineapple tarts annually. If you would like to know more about the labour-intensive task, you may read this thorough and insightful guide here.
Hence, to show our gratitude and appreciation to these hardworking bakers, ETC. Magazine has curated a list of our own favourite pineapple tarts from 5 different bakers this season in honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year. Trust us when we say that these sweeties definitely deserve the shout out. Without further ado, let us jump right into the pineapple tart bandwagon, shall we?
- The Butters Creams
Buttery, crumbly pastry with that dollop of smooth pineapple jam that fills your every chew. This is the definition of ‘symphony in every bite’! These sunflower cuties are so dangerously addictive that you would regret not buying more even after you finish your fifth jar. The fine pineapple jam is not too sweet nor sour, making it perfect for those who are looking for a quick not-so-sweet tooth fix. The Butters Creams are definitely not stingy with their jam either, which if you are a big pineapple tart fan, know that is a rare gem to find in the markets!
2. That Last Bite
From ‘no thanks, that sounds weird’ to ‘could you pass me the whole box please’, That Last Bite specializes in unconventional flavours such as Matcha, Salted Egg Yolk, Parmesan Cheese and many other wacky but palatable choices. A personal favourite, the Jasmine and Osmanthus flavour is a banger! The floral notes add a new dimension to the tarts, evoking a mild and extremely refreshing tingle to your taste buds. There is also an aromatic aftertaste that complements the sweet and tart pineapple paste, which is made from scratch! Pair these chubbies with a piping hot cup of tea for a perfect, light afternoon tea!
3. Jaslyn Cakes
Here is one that will capture your attention. Jaslyn Cakes makes their pineapple tarts a tad different from others – pure butter crust filled with premium pineapple confiture, Taiwanese style! The melt-in-your-mouth crust has a tint of saltiness and the jam is more on the acidic side. Nonetheless, they are still a match made in heaven! If you like your pineapples not too caramelized and with slight chunks, you might want to give this a go!
4. September Bakes
My, my, my! Would you look at those lines! Isn’t that a sight to see? They look so good, but they taste even better! These bite-sized honey jars are the epitome of golden balls of sunshine. Buttery-tangy goodness that just makes you go ‘oomph’. You can definitely taste the labour of love that goes into these pineapple tarts. September Bakes weighs out each pastry and jam to make sure they are uniformed. Consider your cravings aesthetically and internally satisfied!
5. Ah Cha La Pang
Ah, the old-fashioned, caterpillar shape. Filled to the brim pineapple spread wrapped in a buttery crust. Ah Cha La Pang’s marmalade is sweet and moist with real tropical flavour. The ultimate, go-to for those who have a sweeter side to their palate and likes melt-in-your-mouth butter.
That is all from our list! All of us from ETC. Magazine would like to wish all our Chinese friends and anyone out there who is celebrating a fruitful as well as a prosperous Chinese New Year! Hopefully, you get a jar of lip-smacking pineapple tarts with you to celebrate this year!
*All images used belongs to the respective owners