SO here we go around the candy dish as the Chinese New Year feast approaches, and the onus is on us to dazzle visitors with something beyond the pineapple tart/bak kwa/love letters combination.
Truth be told, we still like our pineapple tarts et al, but there's nothing like jazzing up the old lacquer box once in a while. Here's a quick list of munchies for your consideration:
True Blue Cuisine
47 Armenian Street.
Old-fashioned Peranakan goodness is the key to True Blue's festive offerings, and unless you've got some benevolent bibiks in your family who think nothing of churning out vats of achar and baking kueh belanda (love letters), then this is the next best alternative.
True Blue has a wide spectrum of goodies like pineapple tarts of various textures - soft, shortcrust pastry and nonya-style crispy pastry, priced from $17 to $20. The nonya-style ones are reminiscent of the Malacca style kueh tart which features caramel-brown, stiffer pastry, unlike the crumbly or cookie-like tarts we have here. The shortcrust pastry versions are probably the best of the lot - they are not as hard as the nonya-style versions and do not have the powdery softness of the soft tarts. But it's really up to you, and True Blue basically makes them for different tastes. Check out also its fragrant love letters - definitely a notch above the average and very close to home-made quality. Its sugee cake ($50 for one kg) is buttery and good. And if you like cempedak, its kueh lapis ($80 for 2 kg) is fragrant and soft, moistened by the strong-flavoured fruit. Also good are its home-made prawn crackers ($17) and super spicy prawn rolls ($20).
You can have your cookie and eat it too with Cedele's range of eggless, transfat-free crunchy morsels that are made with organic unrefined sugar. It also has a range of cakes like a zesty lemon madeira ($15) - an old-fashioned lemon butter cake that can be a little on the dry side but great with tea or coffee. And if you want to bring a little gift to your relatives' home, Cedele has a very pretty gift box of cupcakes ($28) in flavours like lemon and strawberry cheesecake (light and tasty but very sweet), blueberry maple and chocolate. All of the cakes have a light, fluffy texture, topped with thick frosting.
If you like little crunchy cookies, its orange pecan logs are a surefire winner, followed closely by its lavender almond, chocolate chip macadamia and cornflake cookies. Priced from $15 to $15.90, they may not be as healthy if you scoff the whole bottle yourself, though.
Freshly Baked by Les Bijoux
57 Killiney Road.
The lucky rat cake (header image) made by baker-owner Audrey Tan has got to be the cutest thing we've seen so far, and it is likely to elicit cries of delight when visitors lay their eyes on this old-fashioned orange butter cake covered with buttercream and topped with marzipan rodents.
It is priced at $38, and you get a fluffy-textured butter cake studded with chewy strips of candied orange peel - this is real orange peel, not that bitter stuff you get in a box of mixed fruit. The fragrance and chewiness make this cake fun to eat as well as to look at.
There's also a range of cookies like melt-in-the-mouth pineapple tarts, peanut cookies, biscotti and cashew nut cookies, priced from $13.80.
Ritz Carlton's chocolate
Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore
Feeling rich? Want to put your money in gold? Then fork out the cash for Ritz Carlton's super yummy chocolate mousse and sponge cake that's literally covered in gold leaf. It's a little pricey at $110 for a cake that serves 10, but imagine the wows you would get when you bring it out. It tastes good enough that you don't have to worry about people peeling off the gold leaf and leaving the rest of the cake.
If gold's a little too rich for your blood, then check out a more refreshing alternative - a trifle-like mascarpone mousse with orange and tropical fruit ($58). It's like eating whipped cream with diced pineapple and mango but a lot more sophisticated. Or if you prefer something coconutty, the angel food cake ($58) sandwiched with layers of creamy coconut frosting and covered with shredded coconut makes a pretty picture on a plate.
big pineapple tart
Pan Pacific Singapore
BY virtue of its size, Pan Pacific's seven-inch heart-shaped pineapple tart looks just too cute to eat. Priced at $18, you can chow down on it on your own or use it as a conversation piece on your snack plate. Or, since Valentine's Day is also just around the corner, it could do crossover snack duty as well.
#B1-16/17 Great World City.
Add a taste of Japan with new store Kokoro's range of cookies, chocolates and heavy duty shrimp crackers that will make converts out of local prawn cracker crunchers. Individually wrapped crackers are packed with the fragrance of the sea - you might want to open the windows though. These are hardcore crackers that are 80 per cent shrimp meat. Check out also its fun-to-eat corn chocolates - individually wrapped Hokkaido puffed milled mixed with chocolate. And if you have a sweet enough tooth, the crunchy Kibana almond cookies are excellent.
Every year, Tung Lok tries out a range of cookies that can barely move the taste-o-meter. This year, it does better with prettily packaged individually wrapped cookies that have a slightly Japanese aesthetic. Priced at $8.80 a bag, they come in flavours like almond and coffee, while other flavours like cranberry and chocolate can be found in the Tung Lok gift packs. The cookies are crunchy and decent, with the added advantage of a longer shelf life since they're individually packed