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Time Out Tries CNY Snacks
Photograph: Kashmira Kasmuri

Time Out Tries: The best Lunar New Year snacks

Here are our favourite picks from our festive haul

Cheryl Sekkappan
Written by
Cheryl Sekkappan
Contributor
Time Out Singapore editors
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Lunar New Year is just around the corner, and if there's one thing we're more excited about than receiving red packets – it's the snacks! This festive season is the one time we throw out the fitness routine, loosen our belts and roll up our sleeves for a mighty munchfest. Buttery pineapple tarts, fragrant bak kwa, crisp love letters, powdery kueh bangkit – the list of traditional treats is long, and the list of modern, innovative spin-offs is even longer. 

When there's so much to choose from, it can be hard to, well, choose. To give you some ideas, we put the snacks from our Lunar New Year haul to the test. Whether it's the packaging or taste, here's what we think of some of the best CNY snacks available this year. 

RECOMMENDED: The ultimate guide to Chinese New Year in Singapore

Time Out Picks

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  • Kallang

For those who seek adventure – with refinement

Co-founded by ex-Bakery Brera and Keong Saik Bakery pastry chef Wythe Ng, La Levain serves up rows of freshly baked viennoiseries in the form of croissants, pastries and cruffins at its space within the Jalan Besar locale. This Lunar New Year, the bakery is turning out nine special flavours: under the Prosperity ONG LAI series are four pineapple tart flavours including original ($24.80), osmanthus ($26.80), mixed herb ($26.80) and hojicha ($26.80) and under the Premium LAI HUAT series are five cookie flavours including cacao berry chocolate cookies with Himalayan sea salt ($22.80) and Italian herb mix almond feuilletine ($19.90). 

How it looks We received the original pineapple tarts, Italian herb mix almond feuilletine and almond hazelnut cookies in clear, cylindrical containers with black caps, again stamped with a La Levain sticker. Nothing to shout about. 

How it tastes La Levain has one of the best, if not the best, pineapple tarts of the bunch. We love the generous pineapple filling (which is itself not too sweet), and the pastry is buttery and flaky. It makes us curious about the other pineapple tart flavours on the menu.

Meanwhile, the Italian herb mix almond feuilletine is fragrant and savoury on the nose (we smell rosemary and thyme), and sweet on the tongue with a nice shatter. Easy to watch TV and continually stuff your face with this one. 

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  • City Hall

For those who want to please both the eye and the palette

Sourbombe Artisanal Bakery needs no introduction. This bakery at Penang Road consistently sells out its puffy pillows stuffed with luscious flavoured cream. The bakery often rolls out innovative sourbombe doughnuts for special occasions too – take the recent Christmas box – but this CNY, it's instead turning its attention to pineapple tarts and festive cookies. 

How it looks Sourbombe has the best-looking packaging of the bunch – it's fresh, modern and slightly cheeky. The snacks arrived in round metal tins wrapped in bright colours that each alludes to the snack within. That is: a sexy black design for the fragrant buckwheat black sesame cookies ($20), a bright and pale blue with cute pineapple illustrations for the bak kwa pineapple tarts ($24) and a fire engine red for the hae bee hiam spiced cookies with fish floss ($22). Get the Lunar Orient Cookies bundle of three ($60) for gifting. 

How it tastes We're not lying when we say that our Food and Drink writer couldn't stop reaching for the buckwheat black sesame cookies. He just couldn't get enough of its toasty and salty flavours. Meanwhile, the bakkwa pineapple tarts were wonderfully chewy with a subtle savoury note thanks to the bak kwa – we do wish that we could taste it a little more though. The hae bee hiam cookies were not as intense as The Pine Garden's version, but have a surprisingly light texture – great for non-stop snacking. 

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  • Restaurants
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  • Ang Mo Kio

For traditionalists who want consistency

This neighbourhood bakery has made it big in recent years. Once a hidden gem, it has since been featured in multiple news outlets and best-of-lists. This joint is notable for its locally-inspired buttercream cakes – so we can't wait to see how they take on Chinese New Year goodies.  

How it looks The CNY treats arrived in clear, cylindrical containers with a Pine Garden sticker pasted on. The look is simple and traditional – probably not something you'd get for gifting if that's your intention. 

How it tastes Out of six snacks – including open-faced pineapple tarts – the hae bee hiam crackers stood out to us for their intense and smoky taste. The honey cornflake biscuits were also fragrant, crisp and highly addictive. We wish the kai chai paeng (little chicken biscuit) had a stronger flavour of pepper and chicken fat, and the seaweed biscuit was not to our taste. Otherwise, the taste and quality were consistent across the board. Pine Garden is a no-fail option. 

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Honourable mentions

  • Restaurants
  • River Valley

Marmalade Pantry doles out international cuisine the likes of steaks, pastas, sandwiches and a weekend brunch menu that has all your basics covered. This Lunar New Year, they're doling out a Lunar New Year Collection – Gifts of Timeless Tradition, consisting of pineapple tarts, almond cookies, honey mustard roast crackers and chicken bak kwa. 

How it looks The snacks come in elegant, octagon boxes in hues of pink, green and yellow. Classy, with plenty of space for a generous amount of munchies. 

How it tastes Take the honey mustard roast crackers out of our sight, because those are sinfully addictive! However, they do remind us of the soy crackers from Allison's Pantry, which are a fraction of the price. The chicken bak kwa tastes just like the 'real' thing – you won't miss the pork – and the almond cookies are moist, not too cloying, with pleasant chopped almond bits for texture. The pineapple tarts have a super soft and fluffy pastry, but could do with much more filling. 

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Madam Ling
Photograph: Kashmira Kasmuri

Madam Ling

Despite its name, Madam Ling is a homegrown bakery started by a team of millennials eager to cater to the tastes of young and old alike. Setting aside its signature buns for now, Madam Ling Bakery is diving into traditional Chinese New Year snacks, spanning pineapple tarts, kueh bangkit, green pea cookies, shrimp rolls and more. 

How it looks We received a box of four CNY special cookies – pink Himalayan sea salt chocolate almond cookies, premium pineapple, kopi siew dai cookies and premium NZ butter cookies. The box features a colourful and whimsical design of botanicals and tigers – we think it'd look good as a gift box. The cookies were wrapped in four separate trays, similar to what you'll find in the brand's Whimsical Wonders Collection ($29.80).

How it tastes The kopi siew dai cookies are more bitter and intense than the coffee cookies from Jenny Bakery, which will serious coffee lovers. Along with the NZ butter cookies, it is almost as soft and buttery (though smaller) than its famous counterpart. The other two cookies were buttery and tasty, but did not blow us away.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • City Hall

53-year-old Baker Janti Joso Brasali decided to start Seriously Keto, to fill a gap in Singapore's ketogenic market – and to satisfy her own cravings for bread and sweet desserts after starting her own keto journey. Now, her brick-and-mortar store is a frequent haunt for those looking for hot-sellers like the Blackout Bun or Utter Nutter peanut butter spread. For CNY this year, Seriously Keto is once again helping those on the diet to join in the festive snacking with a pecan coconut tart ($88.80), No Pineapple Pineapple Tarts ($18.80) and other keto snacks. 

How it looks Our Seriously Prosperous Bundle ($108.80) came in a red gift box which opens to reveal a pecan coconut tart displayed alongside a box of No Pineapple Pineapple Tarts and Cashew Cookies. Simple and elegant. 

How it tastes We were most intrigued by the No Pineapple Pineapple Tarts, and were pleased to find out that 'no pineapple' doesn't mean 'no filling'. Instead, these tarts are stuffed with fresh winter melon for a similar taste and texture to the iconic snack. It was a tad too sweet for us, and the pastry was a little waxy – but it's a suitable substitute for those on a keto diet. 

The pecan coconut pie tart is exactly what it says it is. The taste of the pecans and coconut are balanced, and for something with zero added sugars, it's quite the sweet treat. We just wish the crust had more bite. 

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