Pineapple Tarts 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Johanna Bailey is a blogger, freelance writer and student at the Hofmann Culinary School in Barcelona, Spain.
"Chi fan le mei you?" "Have you eaten yet?" This coming week, these words are likely to be heard in many Chinese households around the world. That’s because February 3, is the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the most important and well-known of traditional Chinese holidays. The festivities go on for 15 days and Chinese people all over the world take part in the celebrations by cleaning out and decorating their houses, exchanging gifts, and most importantly, sharing delicious meals with friends and family.
Food is a key component of the Chinese New Year traditions. However, dishes are chosen not just for flavor and sustenance, but also for what they symbolize. Due to the structure of the Chinese language, it is full of homonyms that often make for interesting puns. In Chinese culture, these linguistic similarities are important, especially when choosing symbolic holiday dishes. For example, in many regions, fish is eaten on New Year's since the Chinese words for “fish” and “surpluses” sound similar. Thus it is thought that eating fish symbolizes abundance in the coming year.
Another popular dish is a glutinous rice cake called Nian Gao, which can mean either “sticky cake” or “prosperous year.” Shrimp dishes are also common since the word for shrimp also means “to laugh or smile." Oranges and tangerines are eaten because the words for “orange” and “gold” are similar, as are the words for “tangerine” and “luck.” Another popular food is the pomelo, a large citrus fruit which in Cantonese, sounds like both “prosperity” and “status.”
Culinary symbolism is not only tied to language however. In Northern
China, it is customary to make jiaozi, dumplings that can be filled with
ingredients such as pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, cabbage, ginger and
scallions. The dumplings are often formed into a crescent shape which
resembles the golden ingots used for money during the Ming dynasty (thus
serving as a symbol for prosperity in the coming year). Another dish
called chang sou mien (longevity noodles) is common because long noodles
On the first day of the New Year, many families eat a vegetarian dish
called “Jai” or “Buddha’s Delight.” The dish contains a dizzying number
of ingredients, many of which are symbols of the family’s hopes for the
coming year. Among other things, the dish contains lotus seeds (an
abundance of male offspring), black seaweed (abundance and wealth),
peanuts (longevity), gingko nuts (wealth), and bamboo shoots (a term
meaning “Everything happens in the best of worlds”).
Not surprisingly, sweets also play an important role in the Chinese New
Year. Not only are they yummy, but they are also believed to sweeten the
coming year. There are many different kinds but some of the most
popular are: gok jai, sweet little dumplings filled with peanuts,
coconut and sesame seeds; eight treasure rice pudding
a traditional pudding topped with eight different kinds of fruits and
nuts; and pineapple tarts, buttery crumbly bite-sized pastries topped
with sticky dollops of pineapple jam.
Celebrate along with the Chinese and sweeten up your day with this
recipe for pineapple tarts from Bee Yinn Low of the food blog Rasamalaysia
(makes 24 tarts)Ingredients
For the pastry
2 1/2 cups (350g) all-purpose flour
2 sticks butter/8 oz./1 cup/225 grams butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour)
1 egg yolk (lightly beaten for egg wash)
For the pineapple filling
2 cans (20 oz can) sliced pineapples
10 tablespoons sugar (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon cornstarch or corn flour (mixed with 1 teaspoon water)Method
For the pineapple filling:
-Drain the pineapple slices and then squeeze out the extra water/juice
with your hands. Blend the canned pineapples until they are mushy, about
-Cook the pineapple and sugar over medium heat until most of the liquid
has evaporated, and the filling is golden. Stir constantly with a wooden
spoon to avoid burning. Taste, and add more sugar if needed. Stir in
the cornstarch (or corn flour) to thicken the filling. Let it cool in
For the pastry:
-Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a medium bowl.
-Knead the butter, egg yolks and flour together to form the dough.
-Divide the dough and pineapple filling each into 24 equal rounds.
Flatten the pastry dough with the palms and put the pineapple filling in
the middle and use the dough to cover the filling. Use your palms to
round it up and then shape it into a roll about 1.5 inch long. Use a
fork to make criss-cross patterns on the tart and then brush it with the
-Preheat the oven for 350F and bake for 20-25 minutes or until light brown.
Read more of Johanna's thoughts on food at: www.barcelonabites.com