It’s that time of year once again to feast on your favourite Chinese New Year delicacies. But instead of paying high prices for reunion dinners at Chinese restaurants or buying branded snacks, why not try preparing some of these dishes at home?
If you are still struggling to get just the right levels of sweet, sour and buttery in your pineapple tarts, you are in luck. Several cooking and baking schools in Singapore are offering a series of classes specifically on Lunar New Year goodies.
Palate Sensations is one such culinary school offering cooking classes. At Chef Low Shih Erh’s cooking class, she will be demonstrating how to prepare classic Chinese dishes Braised Sea Cucumber with Broccoli, Yee Fu Noodle with Seafood, Pumpkin Steamed Rice and Chinese Cabbage with Sea Moss and Dried Oyster.
Low is Palate Sensations’ expert in Southeast Asian cuisine. She focuses on teaching students and aspiring chefs long-lost cooking techniques that have been refined through generations.
She was born into a family of cooks through her Thai mother’s side, promising a modern take on traditional cooking without compromising on taste.
Low wants to dispel the belief that cooking traditional Chinese New Year dishes are time-consuming and laborious. “It’s definitely not as tedious as people would think,” she said.
“We believe that utilising the correct techniques and the efficient use of time management in the kitchen will make the cooking adventure fulfilling, healthy and fun,” she added.
“Besides, it is also healthier to eat in,” said Low.
Palate Sensations’ operations manager Calista Ong told Love Wholesome that more students are interested in cooking traditional Chinese dishes, such as Pen Cai, a one-pot dish featuring the most luxurious mix of abalone, scallops, roast duck, roast pork and fish maw.
“Traditionally, they have preferred baking related classes such as making CNY cookies and tarts,” said Ong.
“We have been operating since 2005 and we have been offering CNY classes for the past five years. Chinese New Year cooking classes have become more popular as the general population has become more conscious of what they eat and how to cook. I believe this is fueled mainly from food-related reality TV programs,” she added.
But it’s not just housewives who attend cooking classes at Palate Sensations: Ong noted that it’s mainly working professionals that apply. Its youngest student is 15, while its oldest is 80.
Over at D’Open Kitchen, Chinese New Year cooking classes for this year feature a contemporary menu of Roasted Pumpkin Citrus Soup, Honey Glazed Pork Belly, Orange and Vanilla Panna Cotta, as well as classics like Eight Treasures Chicken, pineapple tarts and Chinese New Year kuehs.
It is also much cheaper to prepare food at home: a four-to-six course Chinese New Year menu at a restaurant for a group of four costs about S$480 to S$800, while a home-cooked version costs S$150 or less, said Trish Yee, a chef at D’Open Kitchen.
Classes that use rare ingredients such as sea cucumber can get rather pricey: Palate Sensation’s festive classes, for example, cost S$160 per head. But there are also affordable options, like Chef’s Warehouse’s classes, which start from $98 per head.
Chef’s Warehouse Chinese New Year cooking lessons cover Hong Kong cuisine classics such as Yee Mian and Roast Pork Belly. Singaporean-style offerings such as Curry Chicken and the Eurasian staple Devil Curry are also available.
For those who want to whip up something quickly, Bakestarters offers a pineapple tart baking kit at S$35.95. It includes all the ingredients needed, as well as video and written instructions.
The kit also comes with ready-made pineapple jam, arguably the most time-consuming part of the tart making process.
Gregory Ong, the founder of Bakestarters, said pineapple tarts are difficult to nail the first time around.
“When we tested the kit, we did a version that made pineapple tarts from scratch, but we all agreed that it might be far too tedious and might be a bit too susceptible to failure. We also found the prepared paste to be sufficient in terms of taste,” he said.
Here is a list of CNY classes for 2019;
(Contact owner Mrs Chua at 9105 5461 for enquiries)
Nonya Pineapple Tarts with Chef Susan
A hands-on class that covers weighing and mixing the tart dough; rolling and moulding techniques; pineapple jam preparation using fresh pineapple; baking and boxing the tart. Each student will receive a box of Chef’s Susan’s chocolate chip cookies as a door gift.
26 January, 2 pm
S$128 per person
(Contact 6219 7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cute Piggy Cream Puffs
Sunday, 27 January, 2 pm to 5:30 pm
S$128 per person
Indonesian Kueh Lapis
Wednesday, 30 January, 11:30 am to 3:30 pm
S$148 per person
Gold Coin Bak Kwa Made Easy
Wednesday, 30 January, 5 pm to 7:40 pm
S$98 per person
Radish and Yam Cakes
Thursday, 31 January, 3 pm to 6 pm
S$118 per pax
Festive Class: Classic Chinese New Year Dishes by Chef Low Shih Erh
Braised Sea Cucumber with Broccoli
Chinese Cabbage with Sea Moss and Dried Oyster
Pumpkin Steamed Rice
Yee Fu Noodle with Seafood
Wednesday, 30 January
S$160 per person
Chinese New Year cookies
26 January, 10 am to 1 pm
S$88 per person
26 January 10 am to 1 pm
S$88 per person
Chinese New Year Bento children’s workshop
2 February, 10 am to 1 pm
S$80 per pair
Organic almond cookies
26 January 2 pm to 4 pm
S$98 per person