Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chinese New Year in Chinatown Singapore

It has been raining continuously for the past three days, dampening the spirits of those who want to make use of the last weekend to buy all their festive goods before Chinese New Year.
It didn’t stop me and I was lucky enough to get a little respite from the bad weather when I reached there yesterday. The rain stopped just in time and business was just starting to pick up for the stall keepers. As expected , there was red everywhere, a sure sign of Chinese New Year with stalls selling candies, melon seeds, cookies, decorations, plum blossoms and more.
Food that takes on the sounds of Chinese words of luck, prosperity, abundance, fortune are the kinds of food favored by the Chinese during this time. Eg tangerines have the same sound as “gold” which is associated with wealth and they are exchanged between families during house visits. Another favourite - pineapple tarts. In Chinese, they are called “wang lie” conveying the sound of the words “fortune is coming”.

There were many stalls selling Taiwanese mo-chi and jelly sweets, favourites of little kids who can never seem to get enough of a sugar overload. Candied fruit and melon seed of all kinds too are popular for the Chinese New Year platter, called the “tray of togetherness”. Traditionally, this tray is made up of eight compartments, each of which is filled with a special food item of significance to the New Year season. The candied melon symbolizes growth and good health; red melon seed are dyed red to symbolize joy and happiness, coconut means togetherness and peanuts present the wish of long life.

And something that is very popular with Singaporeans especially at this time of the year is “bak kwa”. These are barbequed meat pieces that have been marinated to give a sweet and salty flavour. Some popular brands have people queuing up for hours just to get hold of these juicy, delectable morsels.

And just as I was leaving, drops of rain began coming down. I felt lucky for that afternoon though I do empathize with the Chinese stall holders here who do need to sell off their wares soon within this short time, just before Chinese New Year.

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