This is the third blogpost in our series Singapore & Malaysia food trail 2013. Check out our previous blogposts in this series:
Mysaucepan and I are on a 3-week eating spree and will be blogging about our street food adventures with lots of photos and tweets about hawker favourites and local delights that will also cover Chinese New Year 2013 – The Year of the Snake.
We would love your feedback on which are the foods you love and would also welcome any suggestions and recommendations that we should try during our trip in Singapore and Malaysia.
Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festival in the Chinese calendar. Although still vibrant, CNY festivities in Sydney where we live are limited to areas around Chinatown in Haymarket, Chatswood, Burwood, Hurstville and other suburbs where the is a fairly large Chinese and South East Asia community.
Mysaucepan and I find it very exciting to visit family and friends in Singapore and Malaysia since these two countries have a significant Chinese population and the first two days of CNY are public holidays.
Many locals also take the opportunity to visit their families interstate and therefore, it is not uncommon that many local small businesses are close for up to a week or more during this festive period.
We are in Singapore at the moment and it is a good thing the hotel where we are staying is located in the heart of the Chinatown district. It is within walking distance to local tourist attractions such as Chinese and Indian temples, shops, cafes, restaurants and food hawker centres.
Since arriving in Singapore six days ago, we have been wandering through some of these fascinating places around Chinatown.
Singapore’s Chinatown comprise of five districts ~ Tanjong Pagar, Kreta Air (literally water car in Bahasa), Ann Siang Hill, Telok Ayer and Bukit Pasoh. The Urban Development Board has designated these districts to be conservation areas in 1989.
Although still having its ‘old world charm’ where you will see street vendors and small businesses on their daily routine, these areas have also evolved and cultivated its own unique identity over many decades.
CNY is obviously a very important period to the local Chinese community in terms of its significance in the Chinese calendar as well as those doing business and earning a livelihood.
The streets and lane ways around Chinatown become a web of activity, teeming with people going about their daily lives and making preparation for the impending new year.
Mandarin oranges are symbolic gifts to family and friends during CNY because its pronunciation is phonetically identical with gold in the Cantonese dialect.
Pomelos are an important fruit during CNY that signifies family unity. Like the fruit, an offering of pomelo holds out the wish for a family to be large, whole and united.
Pomelos are also one of many important ingredients that go into the local traditional dish of yee sang or raw fish salad.
Nian gao or Chinese New Year cake is eaten mostly during this festive period to usher in good luck. In addition to it being a festive cake, it’s pronunciation is also a homonym for “higher year”.
Therefore, the Chinese believe that eating nian gao will bring oneself to achieve higher goals for the new year.
Chinese sausages or lup cheong are also popular gifts during CNY because they are an important part of Chinese cuisine.
As these sausages are usually dried, smoked and waxed, they have the option of being kept for a very long time before being used for a multitude of popular Chinese recipes.
Chinese waxed and smoked ducks are also popularly eaten during CNY where they are steamed to be rehydrated.
These Chinese waxed ducks are usually eaten with rice and more for its flavour than its meat which is salty and very firm from being preserved.
We come across a vendor with a ‘Chinese sausage wall’ where literally thousands of Chinese sausages are hung up for sale.
Chinese preserved leg ham are usually used to make soups and broths because of its intense and smoky flavour.
CNY is also an important time for children who would no doubt be looking out for ang pows or red packets containing money from parents and relatives.
Food stalls and hawkers who sell Chinese roast ducks, roast pork, suckling pig, soy sauce chicken and BBQ pork are among the most popular during CNY.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, Singapore
Located on 288 South Bridge road, Singapore’s Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is place of worship that was built to house the historic tooth relic of Buddha.
Built at a cost of S$62 million in 2005, its architectural style is based on the Tang dynasty and this temple and museum was completed and officially opened on Vesak day on 31 May 2007 by The Honourable S R Nathan, the President of Singapore.
Admission to the temple and museum is free of charge and there are vegetarian meals served at the basement and cash donations are accepted.
Chinese dried scallops are popular during CNY for a variety of Chinese dishes such as braised mushrooms and cabbage.
Lim Chee Guan sliced pork and pork floss
Sliced BBQ pork is one of the most popular gifts during CNY and I am told the Lim Chee Guan shop in Chinatown is a local institution for this item.
The queue for this sliced BBQ pork is truly one of the longest that I have ever seen.
As we walk past this area, the queue of people are literally in the hundreds, waiting patiently to reach the counters at the shopfront.
I am told some people will be willing to queue up to five hours just to buy this BBQ pork during CNY. Some others may resort to pay people who are willing stand in queue on their behalf.
Yet, there are also those who, instead of standing in queue, might bring their own fold up chair and sit in queue instead.
The giant decorative snake that has been put up along South Bridge Road turns into a meandering yellow lantern at night time.
This snake is a cute giant number giving this busy road its own unique charm to usher in the Year of the Snake for 2013.
Happy Chinese New Year to all our Chinese readers, friends and family.
As my family is Cantonese, we shall say Kung Hei Fatt Choy!
So dear readers, if you celebrate Chinese New Year, what is your favourite food and thing to do during the festive period?
For more information about Chinese New Year in Singapore, visit the following websites:
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
288 South Bridge Road
Tel: +65 6220 0220
Operating hours: Open 7 days from 7am to 7pm including public holidays
Admission is free and vegetarian meals are served in the basement. Cash donations are accepted.
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