We’re less than two weeks away from the annual 13th-month bonus disguised as a two-week long event. Expect lots of loud clanging from mahjong tiles, relatives you only see once a year, and the colour red. Of course, Chinese New Year snacks are absolutely inevitable. Unfortunately, not all snacks are made the same.
Here, we rank the traditional CNY snacks, so you only consume the ones worth the calories.
18. Chocolate Coins
What they are: Disks of cheap chocolate, wrapped between two bits of gold foil.
What we think: We’re not 10 years old. This stuff doesn’t fly anymore. We’re not even really sure if it’s actually chocolate inside. And don’t even think about putting this stuff into angpows, you cheapo.
17. Preserved Fruit
What they are: A platter of unidentified fruits (that may not actually be fruits) soaked way too much salt, sugar, and other additives.
What we think: Not for us. The older generation seems to love it though. Oddly enough, there always seems to be a platter of this stuff in every house.
16. Peanut Puffs
What they are: Like a tiny curry puff, except filled with a peanut mixture instead of potatoes.
What we think: Potatoes are a much better partner with puff pastry. But peanut puffs are fun cause you can pretend you’re a giant, holding tiny curry puffs.
What they are: A nut that is usually shelled before packaging because the exterior is poisonous. Yes, this nut can literally kill you.
What we think: Many cuisines use cashews to thicken dishes. During CNY, cashews are used as a filler between snacks. Eat these only when there’s nothing else.
14. White Rabbit Milk Candy
What they are: Chewy milk-flavoured candy that was briefly treated like the plague during the melamine scandal. The rabbit and its milk candy have since made their way back into our hearts.
What we think: Always fun to eat, but not strictly a CNY snack. They’re available all year round guys. Also really quite jelat when upwards of 5 are consumed at one time.
13. Cashew Cookies (or any other nut cookie)
What they are: Literally just cookies with some nuts mixed into the batter.
What we think: Come on. Want to eat some nuts? Just eat the nuts alone. No need to make them any more unhealthy by pairing them with butter and flour.
12. Love Letters (Kueh Kapit)
What they are: Thin, crispy disc wafers of coconut egg batter cooked with an iron mold over a charcoal flame. They’re super difficult to make, and have to be handmade. Either folded into quarters or rolled while the cooked batter is still warm and malleable. We’re pretty sure there’s a really sappy story as to why love letters are called love letters.
What we think: This stuff is amazing. We can eat half a box of them at one go. Only one caveat: they’re very messy and troublesome. Flakes drop everywhere. Completely impossible to eat without looking stupid.
11. Honey Cornflakes
What they are: Just cornflakes, put into tiny baking paper cups, drizzled with honey, and baked. Occasionally topped with almond flakes.
What we think: Basically just a really cheap excuse for kids to feel responsible for making some “snacks”. It’s just cornflakes baked with honey. Not really that difficult. But immensely satisfying without being messy.
10. Arrowhead Chips
What they are: Like tapioca chips, but made with arrowhead instead. What’s arrowhead?
What we think: Just an alternative to potato chips. But also super addictive and even more expensive than Lay’s. Apparently arrowhead is a tuber that is only available during the CNY period, which explains why its so pricey.
9. Seaweed Crackers
What they are: Sheets of seaweed, stuck between spring roll pastry, then deep fried.
What we think: A relatively recent invention, but still dangerously addictive. Who can resist crunchy snacks?
8. Pineapple Tarts (closed)
What they are: Pineapple jam, left to suffocate in a layer of pastry.
What we think: Pineapple jam is nice. You know what’s not nice? Pastry. For the closed tarts to hold, the pastry cannot be overly crumbly (or, short) — which means less butter is used. And less butter means less happiness.
7. Melon Seeds (Kuaci)
What they are: These days, kuaci is can be from so many other sources, just calling them melon seeds seems to be misnomer. These seeds can come from pumpkin or sunflowers, and be seasoned with a myriad of flavour powders. But they’re still ridiculously difficult to open cleanly.
What we think: All these new hipster flavoured seeds are way too odd for our liking. Who really needs green tea flavoured seeds? Nobody, that’s who. Let’s just stick with the classic old school black-coloured seeds.
6. Spicy Dried Shrimp Rolls (Hae Bi Hiam Rolls)
What they are: Tiny dried prawns, fried with chili, garlic, and shallots (hae bi hiam), stuffed into miniature spring rolls and deep fried.
What we think: These rolls are perfectly sized to ensure uninterrupted chewing as you pop them one-by-one into your mouth. Before you know it, you’re just grasping for air at the bottom of the container. Then the sore throat kicks in. That is when you realize just how evil these things are.
What they are: Nuts. From the ground. Usually come in a packet with either a hand or a farmer on the front.
What we think: Not strictly a CNY snack cause peanuts are available all year round. But there’s just something extremely satisfying about cracking open a peanut shell perfectly and popping those delightful little critters into your mouth.
What they are: Like peanuts, but posh. Also, they’re green.
What we think: They’re even harder to open than peanuts, but the payoff is also better. Besides, green foods are supposed to be good for you, right?
3. Kueh Bangkit
What they are: Pearly white coconut cookies that melt in your mouth. Looks like chalk, tastes like heaven.
What we think: Lazy eaters will love these cookies. No need to even chew — these delicate treasures disintegrate upon contact with moisture. Like M&Ms, but so much better.
2. Pineapple Tarts (open)
What they are: Like closed pineapple tarts, just waaaaaaaaay better. The pastry is allowed to be more crumbly, because the structural integrity of the snack is less important.
What we think: More butter is always good. Also, open pineapple tarts generally have more pineapple jam. Which is even better. An overly-butter pastry catapults the already excellent snack to a lofty second place.
1. Bak Kwa
What they are: Pork marinated beyond recognition, pressed into thin layers, cut into squares, then flame-grilled. Think pork jerky, but barbecued.
What we think: There’s a reason why celebrities like Zoe Tay, Christopher Lee, Fann Wong, and Sharon Au have, at different points of their lives, advertised for bak kwa companies. No, it’s not because these bak kwa people pay really well (although we’re pretty sure they do). The true reason is because nobody says no to bak kwa. No one. Muslim friends need not feel left out — dendeng is pretty similar to bak kwa.