8 Ways to a Hip-Huat CNY

by Susanah Cheok

It’s 2021 and the bullish year of the Ox calls for fresh ideas on elevating CNY traditions and celebrations. Here’s how to ‘hip-huat’ it this year.

As much as many of us look forward to CNY – the gatherings over food, the exchange of goodwill and red packets, the dressing up, the auspicious traditions and general rah-rah – it can also feel like Ground Hog’s Day, just more of the same-old in a different year of the zodiac.

Try something new if you’re bored, change things up by upping the CNY celebration ante with Curatedition’s list of modern ideas that jazz up and trendify the springtime celebrations.

Reunion Dinner Re-imagined

Dare we trifle with the reunion dinner? Yes, we dare to not so much trifle with it, but re-imagine it to be healthier, heartier, and all-round more fun and interactive. Change up steamboat for something equally hot, like a barbecue (Weber’s smokeless and small ones for apartment living), and cook and eat real meat in choice cuts (we like Huber’s Butchery, Swiss Butchery and Foodie Market Place). If your family simply cannot do without something soupy and comforting, set up a shabu shabu station too. In place of veggies, a DIY pohpiah and pie tee table will ensure everyone’s daily fibre intake. If you don’t want to set up your own BBQ pit and shop for meat, book a deal from Sunday Roast (www.sundayroast.sg) and bring the steakhouse home. For orders $1,200 and more, they’ll even bring the chef. Shabu Shabu also allows you to rehash the steamboat pot, so everyone, including Grandma, will be happy. Then just click  www.baobaopopiah.com for a delicious local salad set-up, pie tee and delivery included.

Marmalade for Mandarins

Instead of bringing ‘kam’ or Mandarins on your visits to the homes of loved ones and friends, switch things up with equally delicious and auspicious orange marmalade. Like Mandarins, they are sweet and of the right colour, and have the added advantage of keeping for longer and will make a yummy treat for breakfast the next day. Your recipients will appreciate the unexpected surprise and the break from the traditional fruit.

We like the mini jars from Mrs Bridges that purveys plain orange marmalade, with ginger, or champagne. Other swell choices include minis (about 28-30g each) from Tiptree Wilkin & Sons, Bonne Ma Man and D’arbo. These can easily be ordered by the cartons through usual established online grocery stores. And pre-empting that the domestic goddesses among you may prefer to make your own, we’ve also included an original marmalade recipe from intrepid home chef and all-round gourmand, James Siow.


Step 1

Wash the kumquats thoroughly. Remove blemishes on skin. Slice the fruits into thin rounds. Remove the pith and seeds and set these aside on a cheese cloth. Tie the cheese cloth to form a little bundle.

Step 2

In a large bowl, mix the sliced kumquats, sugar, water, and lemon juice. Place the bundle of pith and seeds in the mixture. You may omit this step if you prefer a thinner marmalade. The pith and seeds are rich in pectin and will help set the marmalade, as well as serve as a preservative.

Step 3

Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let the mixture sit overnight in the refrigerator. If you are in a hurry, two hours on a kitchen top would do. Macerating the kumquats allow the edible skins to be softer.

Step 4

If refrigerated, let the mixture return to room temperature. Pour into a pot, and bring it to a hard boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent the fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. Reduce the heat if necessary, but keep the mixture boiling. Do not stop stirring.

Step 5

The marmalade should be ready in 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll know when it’s nicely gelled. Remove the pot from the heat. Discard the pith and seed bundle. Let the marmalade cool slightly. Pour into sterilised jam jars. When completely cooled, store the kumquat marmalade in the refrigerator. It will keep for about three weeks to a month. Cool tip: If the kumquat marmalade won’t be served to children, add 50ml of brandy (Cointreau—or Grand Marnier—is just as good) to the mixture after it’s cooked.

Gourmet Tidbits

Everyone’s going to serve the usual suspects (tarts, bangkit, peanut cookies), which after the 4th house visit will be so ‘jelak’ (sick from eating in SG vernacular), so why not go with sweets that break the monotony? Your homes can be the ones to refresh and perk up palates with madeleines, brownies, fluffy chiffon cakes, macarons, petit fours, dainty nonya kuehs, even savoury favourites like soon kueh and curry puffs.  And all these can be perfectly washed down with famously fat-cutting oolong tea.

Say Lee

Check out IG account @sayleewithflowers for a choice of tasty and whimsical chiffon cakes that are a feast for the eyes too. Home baker Say Lee specialises in chiffon cakes and her selection includes Naked Cakes and Cakes with Buttercream, both types of which can be decorated with edible flowers and customised with fruits and other treats. Chiffon cake flavours range from pandan, gula Melaka, orange, lemon, strawberry, matcha, lychee to yuzu; these can also be topped and layered with durian puree and berries. From $45 to $120 per cake which serves about 12, for self-pickup or delivery. Direct message @sayleewithflowers on Instagram to order.

Whipsical Whisk

Whipsical Whisk, by the self-professed sweet-toothed home baker Veronica Teo, whips up a range of many-flavoured madeleines, brownie cheesecake and giant chocolate chip and walnut cookies (each is a small meal unto itself) to potentially surprise your hungry CNY guests. You can buy these yummies in different size sets that come in smart packaging and friendly prices ($4 per giant cookie to $38 for a whole brownie cheesecake); and delivery is free for orders above $50. Direct message on social pages for orders at https://www.facebook.com/whipsicalw and https://www.instagram.com/whipsicalw

Atlas Handcrafted

From homestyle and rustic to premium ‘atas’ tidbits from Atlas Handcrafted (www.atlashandcrafted.com), purveyors of Sg’s most imaginative desserts on a platter. Find dream assortments (sets include the serving trays and bento boxes they come with) of nonya kuehs, gourmet platters (cheese and charcuterie boards), amazing Thai desserts, heritage platters (curry puff, soon kueh, png kueh, dumpling), Cantonese pastries (authentic Portuguese egg tarts), and dessert hotpots (bubor cha cha, pulot hitam) on their extensive menu, which also includes luxurious customised cakes, champagne and wine. Sounds like a high-octane celebration, sorted.

A Splash of Red 

It’s CNY and the perfect occasion to splash out in eye-catching red. Red is outstanding, but a sea of red can get boring. Wear red by all means, but we don’t want to just see red. There are so many other beautiful hues to wear and enjoy, so do red colour couture just on your lips and for the mani-pedi instead. No two red shades are the same after all, as you can see in the gorgeous collections from Dior, Shu Uemura and YSL Beauty. They comes in the deepest and brightest of true reds you can imagine.


Dior celebrates Lunar New Year 2021 with a Limited Edition Rouge Dior Coffret in an elegant red case that reveals 5 shades of Rouge Dior ($280) – the House’s iconic lipstick, now in a refillable tube. The collection of Rouge Dior lipsticks features the following shades: 999 Velvet, new velvet finish of the famous 999; the revered Dior red 772 Classic, the rosewood with a bold, matte finish; 760 Favorite, in velvet finish; 840 Rayonnante, also in velvet finish; and 869 Sophisticated, in a satin finish.

shu uemura and YSL Beauty
  • shu uemura

shu uemura’s star red shade from the Rouge Unlimited Lacquer Shine Iron Reds collection is a CNY must-buy, while YSL Beauty’s Rouge Volupte Shine in shades 127 and 130 are sexy, modern and classic. Flaunt them, masks off!

Chinoiserie Reinterpreted

We concede that the cheongsam in its original form is elegant and perfect for CNY and almost any occasion in fact, as it’s that versatile and comfortable! Enduring and classic are good, but we also like these creative re-interpretations of the cheongsam and chinoiserie-inspired pieces from Ong Shumugam, Ying the Label and Lai Chan for when you want a refreshed CNY wardrobe.

Ong Shunmugam

The progressive Ong Shunmugam collection celebrates a decade of its designer Priscilla Shunmugam’s work, with 10 key cheongsam silhouettes that run the gamut from dresses, to two-piece mix and match tops, with a selection of skirts and pants. The pieces can look dress-up formal or casual, cool and fun, depending on your attitude and how you wear them.

Ying The Label X Jade

The collaborative Ying The Label X Jade christens its chinoiserie-nuanced, kimono-informed collection All About Love. And these lovely CNY options come with matching masks too. Comfortable and beautiful, they’re great for lounging at home and entertaining visitors.

Lai Chan

In place of re-working silhouettes, designer Lai Chan cleverly modernises the qi pao with fabric and print and the use of buttons not just as fastenings, but as embellishments, keeping the collection timeless yet modern. Check out his Qipao selections that are going fast at laichan.com.

Green Hong Bao

Go paperless, save the earth and PayNow hong bao to your loved ones. It’s safe and less stressful than lining up to get new notes. With restricted house visits in play, giving e-hong baos enables you to gift even when it’s not possible to meet. You can contact your preferred bank to get details on how to send big quantities of e-hong baos this year. Otherwise, just activate your PayNow app as usual.

Fruitful ‘Huat’ Trees

Why buy kumquat plants and pussy willow? They will fade once the season is over. Get a pair of evergreen fruit trees – pineapple, passion fruit, jujube, lemon, jambu or fig – that will continue to be fruitful throughout the year. These fruit trees are also easily available from most online and brick and mortar plant stores. Be-ribbon them in scarlet if you like them to look more festive.

Modern Floral Decor

For that touch of moulin rouge at home, spruce up the house with tasteful floral arrangements of red roses and pink peonies in place of gaudy red cushion covers and glitzy gold curtains. The trend this year seems to be about mixing flowers with fruit and installing them into sculptural shapes as patio and threshold greeters, as well as centrepieces for dining, coffee and side tables.

Ricky Yeo

Ricky Yeo’s Chinese New Year Botanical Box puts things in artful perspective. He calls this “festive botanical bricolage prefect” a “greeter in the home home threshold” and an “artful installation at the coffee-table. The assemblage, in an upcycled wine crate, is abundant with seasonal favourites: chrysanthemums, citrus fruit (lime, tangerine, pomelo), as well as tropical heliconias resembling firecrackers.”

Price upon request. Direct message on Instagram: @ricky_yeo

William Tan

Floral artist, William Tan plays with hues from happy yellows, blush pinks to raging reds, and a variety of flowers, including some fruit and has a focus on orchids. He customises them to the size of your rooms and every space too. Text 97388847 to order his gorgeous flower decorations.

Geri Koh and the Ong-Lees
  • Geri Koh

But, if like house-proud home owners Geri Koh and the Ong-Lees, you have enough foresight to plant the right foliage in your garden, then on your own, you’ve already got it covered. Geri’s rose bush seems to blossom every spring around CNY, and fortunately, so do the firecracker plants in the Ong-Lees’ veranda.

Images courtesy of featured brands and vendors, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.

Related links:

Time for An Ox-picious Start

Rouge Dior, Reinvented

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