So many Chinese New Year snacks are sweet and, like a lot of food people eat at this time of the year, it is symbolic. A sweet treat might herald a sweet year, and who does not want that?
But a sea of pineapple tarts, love letters, kueh bangkit and even bak kwa can get a tad monotonous, so I love the Almond & Ikan Bilis Sambal Cookie ($20.80 a tub) from Cedele because they are a very good shock to the palate.
The cookie has loads of crunch, with ikan bilis and almonds adding even more. Fragrant curry leaves and kaffir lime add zest and the heat lingers on after the bite-sized cookie is gone.
Two of the new offerings this year are terrific too.
I find myself unable to stop munching on Gula Melaka Coconut Cookies ($19.80 a tub), dark and aromatic with palm sugar, with a good amount of dessicated coconut in it too. Like the savoury cookie, this one is so light and crisp.
Straddling both sweet and savoury camps is 5-Spice Walnut Sesame Cookie ($19.80 a tub). The spice mix in the cookie reminds me of Hong Kong-style chicken biscuits, but the cookie is not at all greasy.
All three are good additions to the Chinese New Year snack tray - just know you will have to replenish them often.
Cookies from Cedele stores, including 01-01/02 Great World City (tel: 6836-1426), 03-28A Raffles City Shopping Centre (tel: 6337-8017), and 02-14 Greenwich V, (tel: 6753-9946). Order at least three days in advance
Take away a homey new year dish
The endless rounds of visiting during Chinese New Year always leaves my family too exhausted to contend with crowds at restaurants or cooking.
So the next best thing is to order food for takeaway, and to enjoy it at home without having to jostle with other people.
I like the idea of a one-dish pencai, with different textures in a savoury sauce. Just add yusheng and rice, and a simple but hearty meal is ready in no time at all.
Goodwood Park Hotel has a terrific claypot dish with a whole braised chicken, slices of pork belly, whole abalone, dried oysters, mushrooms, black moss and crisp-tender broccoli.
That last ingredient gives the dish some texture, since everything else is tender and fall-apart.
This dish has a homey vibe to it, and the savoury brown gravy would be even better with a little more salt.
Save the gravy, if there is any left. If you have bought those terrific Sau Tao shrimp egg or spinach noodles from Giant that I wrote about last week, they are terrific with some of the gravy mixed in, and topped with stewed mushrooms, chicken shreds and blanched kailan.
Braised Chicken With Sea Treasures in Claypot, $198 (serves six), from Min Jiang. Orders for takeaway should be made at least three working days in advance, and the last date for ordering is Feb 11 at noon. Call Min Jiang (Goodwood Park Hotel) on 6730-1704, Min Jiang at One-North (5 Rochester Park) on 6774-0122 or Goodwood Park Hotel Deli on 6730-1786 to order
Cake dream come true
Sometimes, stuff I dream about comes true. I have been thinking about what the perfect cake of my dreams would be, and this Honey Yuja-Cha Chiffon Cake is pretty much it.
Heartland bakery Pine Garden's Cake has used the citron jam in a floaty, airy cake that is a perfect antidote to all the rich food at Chinese New Year.
At just 500g, the cake is good for four to six people although I daresay I could polish the whole thing off given enough time.
It comes topped with cream and a smear of the citron jam; nothing too heavy that will weigh the cake down.
A fresh citrusy flavour and the cake's light sweetness perk up the appetite immediately.
I could eat this cake all year round. It is too good for just the Chinese New Year season. So I call the shop and ask if I can order it after the festivities.
And guess what? It will be available year round.
Honey Yuja-Cha Chiffon Cake, $16.80 for a 500g cake, from Pine Garden's Cake, Block 529 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, 01-2369, tel: 6457-6159, open: 8.30am to 9pm daily. Cakes must be ordered at least three days in advance
Refresh with yuzu
It is uncanny how readers know exactly what I like.
Recently, I received an e-mail from one of them about Mr Bean's Icy Yuzu Soya Milk.
"As I was enjoying this refreshing healthy drink, I thought of you. Give it a try," she wrote.
I did and I loved it. It's not just because I am a big fan of yuzu, but this is also a delicious way to drink soyabean milk.
For Chinese New Year, the soyabean milk chain blends its fresh soya milk with yuzu puree and then adds pineapple pops, which do exactly as the name says. Bite on them and the bubbles pop, releasing a pineapple-flavoured filling.
I had been running endless errands that day and the refreshing drink was just what I needed.
Now, if only Mr Bean would sell it all year round.
Icy Yuzu Soya Milk with Pineapple Pops, $3 for 355ml and $3.50 for 475ml, at all Mr Bean stores, including 01-35 Toa Payoh Hub, 01-K06 Causeway Point and B1-48 Wisma Atria, until Feb 6 or while stocks last