Shopping for the Lunar New Year (also commonly called Chinese New Year) is a big deal in Singapore. Veterans say it takes planning and practice. For starters, the shopping list is long: new clothing and shoes for each family member, new year decorations, household items to refresh the home from big items like furniture down to new toothbrushes, and festive foods for personal indulgence as well as for visitors and for gifting. Each new year brings fresh and innovative options particularly in food, and to ferret out the novel and the best is a matter of pride and satisfaction for many.
Not surprisingly, Chinatown ranks as a “must-go” destination for new year goods. The neighborhood is vividly decorated in red and gold colors and brilliantly lit at night. Popular among locals is the Festive Street Bazaar that runs for approximately 3 weeks before the first day of Lunar New Year on Pagoda Street, Smith Street, Sago Street, Temple Street, and Trengganu Street. In the evenings you’ll find the bazaar thronging with people seeking traditional new year foods like pastries, melon seeds, and “bakkwa” (a barbecued jerky), colorful decorations featuring auspicious words/phrases and the Chinese zodiac animal of the year, flowers and potted plants, and clothing, all preferably in the color red.
Our personal favorite market to check out is the Chinese New Year Fair at Takashimaya Square Basement 2 in Ngee Ann City. It is food-centric (the last time we went there was only one stall selling decorations) and tends to be where we find the latest and most “avant-garde” food offerings.
New offerings this year include:
- Salted Egg Yolk Kueh Lapis from Ollela
- Prosperity Gold Bar 100% Pure Black Gold Mao Shan Wang Durian Layered Nian Gao from Peony Jade (Nian gao is a steamed/baked glutinous rice cake. This nian gao is shaped like a gold bar and doesn’t actually contain any Au element.)
- Rose Pineapple Tarts from Kele
- XO Golden Pillow Pineapple Tarts from Bakerzin that contain XO liquor
- Tom Yam Emping Chips from Rasa Sayang (we also love their oven baked fish crackers – these sell out quickly)
The Takashimaya fair also attracts a good number of vendors from other countries. We’ve sampled delicious offerings from Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, and it’s doubly sweet that they are gathered under one roof. (Did I mention that one of the perks of visiting these fairs is that you get to try free samples of practically everything on sale? If you like what you eat, get it pronto because the good stuff sells out fast.)
If you can’t make it to Takashimaya, most large malls such as Suntec City, Raffles Xchange, Vivo City, and Nex feature a Lunar New Year fair, usually at Level 1 or in the basement. Traditional new year goodies such as “bakkwa“, pineapple tarts, kueh bangkit, and kueh lapis, which have been featured on Geniegoods, can be found at these fairs. And, after the New Year, watch for “post-CNY” sales!