Chinese New Year is almost upon us, in case you couldn’t tell by the clang of gong xi tunes and an abundance of the Zodiac Animal of the Moment. We’re heading into the Year of the Pig, and chefs everywhere are tossing their aprons in glee, because there’s so much you can do in the kitchen with, well, pork. (As compared to last year’s… dog.)
Keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary, we scrolled through the heaps of press releases in our inbox and shoutouts on social media to whittle down our list to intriguing-looking yushengs, CNY snacks with a twist, and events to mark on your calendars if you’re into chaotic crowds and that sort of thing.
The popular patisserie never disappoints with each new dessert collection, and this year is no different. Its new “Abundantly” cake ($38) blends Chinese flavors with French flair for a creation that’s as showy as it is toothsome. Presented with a plastic wrap around its sides, it looks just like any other cake. But once you remove the wrapping, the salty cheese cream cascades over the chiffon, resulting in a beautiful mess. Layers of textures and flavors linger in each bite, from the purple sweet potato and black sesame peanut feuilletine to the toppings of black sugar tapioca pearls and candied yam.
The Hong Bao ($10-$25) is also a must try: its red dragon fruit-infused bread encases mochi stuffed with fried shallots, candied yam, sweet potato, pork floss, and salted egg. It’s a masterclass in sweet and savory — let’s just say you’ll be fighting your relatives for the last pai seh piece.
The bakery’s new pineapple tarts for 2019 include floral and zesty notes in its rose, orange, and chrysanthemum options, all of which you can get in an assorted tin of 18 ($22.80). But if you prefer something a little less tart, try the black sesame yuan bao ($15.80/nine).
The newest bak kwa (pork jerky) brand in town individually vacuum seals each char grilled piece to keep your containers less greasy, with options like minced pork ($33/600g) and a limited edition barbecued bacon ($48/600g) made with fatty pork belly for that delicious scoop of extra calories. It’s an easy option for a gift as well, since the boxes are shaped like characters such as the gods of blessing, fortune, longevity, and happiness.
Nibble on chocolate chip bak kwa cookies when you go house-hopping this year, with the CNY cookie tin ($38) by Janice Wong, which features seven different flavors, including green pea biscuits, chocolate strawberry love letters, and kueh bangkit (coconut biscuits).
For more of the dessert maestro’s classic chocolate touch on festive goodies, try the 76 percent single origin dark chocolate pineapple tarts ($28), or take home a chubby chocolate piggy bank ($33) with chocolate coins (the best kind).
Old Chang Kee’s curry puffs now come in a Hainanese chicken rice version, stuffed with steamed chicken, coriander leaves, garlic, shallots, and aromatic rice, all mixed with chilli and dark soy sauce. It’s like all the familiar flavors of the local dish compacted into one pastry.
If you’re more of a cookie monster, try the two new flavors ($16.80/jar): curry, made with a mix of candlenut, galangal (blue ginger), lemongrass, and shredded curry leaves; or nasi lemak, comprising of dried chillies, belachan, assam, and shrimp paste, stuffed with crispy ikan bilis (anchovies) and peanuts.
Pineapple tarts get an infusion of indulgence with Racines’ foie gras pairing (who would’ve thought?) in a meeting of French and Chinese cuisines. It’s a heart-stopping blend of tart pineapple and rich foie gras butter in the pastry dough, plus it comes with a steep price tag of $38 (for 30 pieces), so you’ll wanna save this for a special treat.
Besides Sprmrkt’s tosca street cashew nut cookies ($23.80/400g), the brand offers its lemongrass Earl Grey pineapple tarts ($38.80/600g) for the season. Each box contains tea-infused, buttery pastry wrapped around a house-made pineapple jam that’s not too cloyingly sweet, with a subtle hint of lemongrass.
Pig out at Ding Dong with a sharing menu ($65/person, min two pax) of six porky dishes, including the restaurant’s signature Thai grilled pork collar with a fiery, savory jaew (Thai dried chilli) dipping sauce. Start off with layers of rich Vietnamese pork liver pâté on crispy baguette slices, followed by a pan of pork sisig, the Filipino classic made from parts of the pig, with a runny egg for a creamy finish. There’s also Balinese pork satay with a fiery sambal tomato dip and roasted pork belly with meat that’s as tender as the skin is crisp.
End off with a little bowl of bak kwa ice cream that’s savory, smoky and sweet — it’s got pork floss crumble for crunch and pineapple curd for tart notes to cut through the thick, almost paste-like consistency of the frozen treat. If you’ve ever wondered whether pork jerky would be as delicious as a dessert, the answer is yes.
It’s the “ear of the pig” (geddit?) at Fat Chap, where a yusheng ($38.80-$48.80) of green and white daikon, golden snapper sashimi, pomegranate, pomelo, and chopped peanuts comes with a side of curry-spiced crispy pig’s ears.
Jade brings indulgence to the next level with its “gold rush” yusheng that includes lobster, Australian abalone, and Norwegian salmon plated to look like a plump piglet that’s content to be eaten. This creation is part of the restaurant’s “golden feast” ($2,388/ten people, orders made two days in advance), which also features expensive ingredients like suckling piglet, caviar, bird’s nest, and lobster.
Those looking for a place to host family gatherings over CNY can try Parkroyal on Pickering’s Lime restaurant for its “royal reunion” buffet (Feb 4-6; adults $78-$128, children $48-$78). Here, you’ll get to pig out on dishes like roast pork belly, roast prime ribs, and suckling pig (this one’s only available during dinner). Seafood also features in the selection, as well as a fondue fountain that’s been turned a bright orange hue (let’s hope it’s more mandarin orange than Oompa Loompa) for the festivities.
Taking our love for bubble tea to CNY heights, Rumah Rasa — the Indo restaurant that brought you blue turkey for Christmas — tosses its yusheng with tapioca pearls, a drizzle of house-made gula melaka, and a splash of tamarind sauce. The lo hei starts from $28 for two to four people, and goes up to $38 for six to eight.
If you’d like to try something different this year, the one Michelin-starred restaurant’s Indian-spiced yusheng ($38) comes with tandoori smoked salmon and masala crushed peanuts. Alternatively, its tandoori spiced “treasure pot” ($98), a pen cai-inspired dish, is filled with abalone, scallop, prawn, salmon, lamb, portobello, and veggies, all marinated in a mix of garam masala, paprika, and turmeric.
For an eatery called Uni Gallery, obviously its yusheng has to come with uni, caviar, and sashimi. The $128 platter, which stars Canadian uni and Polanco caviar, comprises of a swirl of ikura with salmon, amberjack, and swordfish sashimi.
In typical Violet Oon style, the Peranakan restaurant adds a nyonya twist to its yusheng ($68-$98) with kaffir lime leaves, pink ginger flowers, and green mangoes.
Controversy over those now-recognizable pig decorations along New Bridge Road aside, the Chinatown area kicks into full gear this season for what’s arguably its most popular celebration. With lanterns adorning the streets, traditional Cantonese opera performances, and workshops to learn crafts like pineapple tart-making, the district will be lit in the lead-up to and during CNY. Other activities include a festive street bazaar, nightly stage shows, and a countdown party complete with fireworks.
This year’s Chingay brings the crowds to the F1 Pit Building on Feb 15 and 16 with highlights like a 270m-long painting to commemorate Singapore Bicentennial, acrobatic and gymnastic performers, a carnival with art installations, food booths, and family-friendly activities, and a whole lot of pyrotechnics to end off the parade.
Gardens by the Bay’s first floral display of 2019 showcases blooms in a Chinese garden for Dahlia Dreams, alongside Spring Surprise, which features performances, orchestra tunes, a lion dance at the Supertree Grove, and a festive market in the Flower Dome.
The 16th edition of Esplanade’s annual festival starts from Feb 23 and goes on till Mar 4, with theatre, dance, and music programmes by Chinese artists both local and international. This year’s highlights include a commissioned work staged at the Esplanade Theatre, a site-specific theatrical performance at the basement carpark, and an inter-disciplinary work by two names from the arts scene in their first collaboration.
Taking over The Float at Marina Bay from Feb 3 to 10, River Hongbao 2019 includes an exhibition on the Singapore River through time, lanterns across the entire space from the main arch to the festive installations, a carnival with more than 20 rides and games, and fireworks over the bay.