Asian fusion desserts bringing a new spin to Lunar...

Asian fusion desserts bringing a new spin to Lunar New Year celebrations

Anticipation is suspended across a dark sky as people wait for a blinding explosion of light to fill the dark. A tiny spark spirals upwards before splintering into hundreds of glittering arms across the sky embracing the dark. The smell of smoke slowly descends back down into the crowds of people below as the light fades just as quickly as it was ignited. Over and over fireworks continue to pop and bang above a crowd of people. They’re all there to see the same spectacle they have witnessed at least twice a year for as long as they can remember. No matter how many times people see fireworks the same wonder and warmth floods their face and they’re drawn straight back to being ten years old seeing fireworks for the first time.

That feeling of nostalgia is a strong currency that most people would bargain with in a heartbeat. To feel that wonder for even a moment whether it be through music, books, or food. Flavours in our favourite meals and desserts can transport us straight back to any period and any feeling from our past. Lunar New Year is a holiday full of tradition and sharing stories with family and friends over meals that have been developed over thousands of years.

In Chinese mythology, Lunar New Year came about as the result of villagers getting revenge on a beast called a Nian during the annual Spring Festival. The Nian would come out and eat people during the middle of the night. After discovering that the Nian could be frightened away using firecrackers and red papers, the villagers then took up wearing red clothes and hanging red lanterns to ward it away. The holiday is steeped in years of history and tradition with memory and storytelling becoming a pivotal part of the festival, which has continued to be carried by those who celebrate the holiday.

Lunar New Year is celebrated across the globe by many Chinese and Southeast Asian Communities as a time for renewal and luck. Thousands of people flood back to their homes to spend time with family and loved one before the Lunar New Year begins. It is a time to remove the bad and the old and welcome new and exciting opportunities into your life. This is shared through a number of traditions including gifting money in red envelopes for luck, hanging red lanterns inside and outside homes and by sharing copious amounts of food with family and friends. The traditional New Year’s Eve dinner, known as Nian Ye Fan (年夜饭) in China includes several dishes but the desserts in particular are a known centrepiece—particularly for the kids.

Recreating something as special as childhood memories in a food is something that Sydney based Asian-fusion Bakery Tokyo Lamington excel in, particularly around Lunar New Year. Bringing nostalgia and the storytelling that Lunar New Year centres around, and combining it with one of Australia’s most classic desserts—the lamington—has become the bread and butter of baker Eddie and his business partner Min.

Eddie Stewart smiles at the camera, with his arms crossed

“It’s based on nostalgia…the team will make a flavour and it’s something they grew up with,” says head baker of Tokyo Lamington Eddie. “That’s one thing we really excel at. Because, you know, you really dig on those emotions. And I guess it’s not just [about] eating something. It’s more about sharing a story.”

Each year, Tokyo Lamington offers special made lamingtons that are tailored specifically for Lunar New Year. Homing in on the nostalgia, as Eddie says, and merging those traditional Asian flavours with the classic Lamington recipes brings an exciting new dessert each year.

“[Previously] we did a salted duck egg lamington and the year before we did a pineapple tart lamington. All our staff, they all come from different parts of Asia. So, everyone puts their little part into it.” Eddie’s partner comes from Hong Kong, his business partner Min comes from Malaysia and other staff members are from Indonesia and a number of other Asian countries. The influences from different countries that celebrate the Spring festival means that the unique lamingtons always have a new spin each year and a more personal infusion from the team and their experiences.

Although the bakery excels in creating unique flavours of lamington each year, it doesn’t come without challenges. Lunar New Year being a tradition that is thousands of years old, can come with some terms and conditions particularly creating a blended style of dessert for the occasion in a country like Australia.

“You get the stress point where you’ve got to [make] these desserts that people have had for years and years that they know and love but then we’re trying to [redo] that. It’s quite a stressful thing to do,” Eddie says. Trying to meet those expectations of thousands of years of tradition can be stressful, but Eddie and his team seem to have mastered it with the latest creation they came up with last Lunar New Year.

“We don’t go over the top. But I think for me, you know, one of the biggest things for Chinese New Year is of course the fireworks. Last year we did a firecracker Lamington, which was a great honour for me, because we always head back to Hong Kong for Chinese New Year every year and it’s all about the fireworks.”

“It’s hard to put that into food,” says Eddie.

“Translating [the experience] into food is quite difficult.”

Tokyo Lamington's Yuzu lamington

For the 2024 Lunar New Year, the year of the Dragon is sure to be a big one with many traditions surrounding the dragon reflecting strong themes of leadership, wealth, and tenacity. Being the only mythical creature in all the animals of the Chinese zodiac, the dragon holds a special place in Chinese culture featuring heavily in popular folklore stories.

Tokyo Lamington already have plans in place for some strong and vibrant flavours for their next New Years lamington which should align nicely with the themes of the dragon.

“This year coming up we’re doing a mandarin and salted egg lamington.” Eddie says it will feature some more traditional nuts and spices and pineapple which is commonly used in tarts and other desserts around the New Year. The lamington will feature a mandarin curd, which will utilise mandarin oils, skin and fresh mandarin to create a full-bodied flavour of lamington with a salted egg custard layer.

“Salted egg is such a beautiful unique flavour. It’s got to be done well. I’m sure [with] this Lamington we probably will be smashing the budget, but it’s one of those things you do once a year and you do it well and do it properly.”

With the Lunar New Year for 2024 round the corner, its time to prepare for a year of ambition, passion and to take those big risks. The start of the Lunar New Year will fall on Friday February 10 with the second new moon so mark your calendars to star the celebrations.

Following traditional flavours

Moon Cakes

Stylised with beautiful intricate designs and filled with red bean, sesame, or lotus seed paste, moon cakes are believed to have originated over 3,000 years ago. The symbols and patterns decorating the tops of the cakes typically represent positive sentiments such as harmony and longevity. Although moon cakes are most often associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival, a harvest festival celebrated in the eighth month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, their more general celebratory use has seen them also be used to celebrate Lunar New Year.

Pineapple Tarts

More typically seen on table across Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore, among other countries, pineapple tarts feature a sweet pineapple jam encased in buttery pastry. The treat is believed to originate in the 1500s, during the Portuguese conquest of the Malay Peninsula. They are typically set in a mould that gives them the characteristic hashed appearance of a pineapple, although this isn’t always the case.

Egg Custard Tarts

These sweet, sticky baked treats are believed to bring luck when eaten during Lunar New Year festivities. They feature flaky outer pastry filled with creamy egg-based custard. This is another Lunar New Year treat that has colonial origins, and the tarts will be different depending on where the recipe originates—for example, tarts made in Hong Kong will typically have a smooth finish in line with British influence, whereas tarts made in Macau will follow the more Portuguese style of having a caramelised top.

Click here to upload your own recipe


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.