Welcoming prosperity this Chinese New Year
In Hokkien, pineapple is translated as ‘Ong Lai’ which means ‘prosperity has come’. It is believed that serving and eating the delicious golden goodness during Chinese New Year will bring good luck and prosperity to your home.
From lantern-shaped cookies to biscuits shaped like firecrackers, bakeries around town are getting creative with their baked goods.
But while these trending cookies are making waves these days, the Chinese New Year open house spread wouldn’t be complete without the good old iconic pineapple tart.
With Chinese New year just around the corner, pineapple tarts are sprouting just about everywhere and whether or not you are celebrating Chinese New Year, you cannot resist bringing back at least one container home.
Generally, a pineapple tart would look like a flat buttery melt-in-your mouth open tart topped with a ball of sugary sweet pineapple filling. Sometimes, you can even find the pineapple filling enclosed inside the cookie.
Tucked away along the narrow stretch of Kai Joo Lane downtown, a bakery shop called Cheak Hng is well known among its customers for its unique sunflower-shaped pineapple tart.
Usually open from 8 am till 5 pm, one gets a delivious whiff of baked goods when they pass by Cheak Hng as the workers can be seen bustling around the small bakery preparing the ingredients.
“I started selling pineapple tarts here in Cheak Hng in 2013. Before that, I used to make them from home after receiving orders mostly from friends and acquaintances,” said owner Noi Ng who has 20 years experience making pineapple tarts.
Even though she’s only been operating in this venue for two years, Noi said that the shop used to belong to her late father and was previously used as a storage unit.
According to Noi, her father used to open a restaurant with the same name and operate a catering business. A family inheritance, Noi decided to use the name for her bakery shop which is now well known among her customers for its miniature pineapple tarts.
Anice Chiu, who has been working at the bakery for a year, said regular customers would sometimes stop by Cheak Hng specifically to buy their signature pineapple tart.
“Sometimes, we also get passersby and tourists stopping by the shop to buy our pineapple tarts,” she said.
Cheak Hng also sells other types of pastries such as melting pineapple tart, almond cheese pineapple pie, pineapple pie and melting moment pineapple tart.
However, during the Chinese New Year season, Noi said her bakery shop would only make pineapple tarts during this season.
“We only make pineapple tarts since we get massive orders from my customers,” said Noi adding that she would usually receive orders from her regular customers as early as three months before.
With 20 years’ worth of experience making pineapple tarts, Noi said she she had experimented with various techniques to perfect the recipe for her signature bite-sized pineapple tarts.
Having joined a baking course in Singapore in 1991, Noi said that the course taught her to bake all sorts of pastries but ultimately, Noi settled on selling pineapple tart.
When asked why, Noi simply answered, “I like pineapple tarts,” with a laugh.
Beautifully-crafted, the tart is soft and will instantly melt in your mouth and the pineapple filling is sweet enough without being overwhelming, making it the perfect tea time snack to go with a cup of tea.
Made with great care, each tart is inspected and carefully packed to make sure it would not crumble or get crushed.
Typically, the pineapple filling is made by grating fresh pineapple and cooked slowly over low heat until it caramelises. Taking a lot of effort to prepare, Noi said the filling alone would take four to five hours to prepare and have them ready.
After preparing the dough, the tart is carefully shaped with a baking mould before being topped with balls of pineapple filling. After the pineapple tarts are baked and left to cool, they are then carefully packed and ready to be sold.
Tedious and time-consuming, the process of making pineapple tarts might be laborious but if it means inviting prosperity to your home during this festive season then the tradition is definitely worth repeating every year just to enjoy these delightful golden goodies.