Chinese New Year traditional snacks with a twist, from super-easy biscuits to umami-rich pork balls

Chinese New Year traditional snacks with a twist, from super-easy biscuits to umami-rich pork balls

Expecting hordes of visitors this CNY but tired of serving the same old nibbles? Let them chomp on these two super-easy-to-make snacks instead

Stuffed red dates

These chewy morsels can be prepared in advance and steamed when your guests arrive.

Ingredients (makes 20)

20 large dried red dates, washed

100g glutinous rice flour

1 tbsp sugar, optional

pinch salt

90ml hot water

10 walnuts, toasted

Photo: Wynnie Chan


1 Soak the red dates in a large bowl of warm water for 20 minutes. Drain.

2 Using a pair of scissors, carefully make a vertical slit in the dates - but don't cut all the way through - then remove the seeds. 

3 Combine the rice flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir in the hot water, then mix well to form a soft dough. 

4 Take a small piece of dough and stuff it into the date. 

5 Arrange the dates, stuffed side up, in a heatproof dish.

6 Set a rack in the bottom of a large saucepan or wok, fill with water to within 2cm of the bottom of the rack, cover the pan and bring to the boil. 

7 Carefully set the dish on the rack, cover and steam over a medium heat for 15 minutes. 

8 Serve warm topped with toasted walnuts.

Nutritional information per stuffed date: 56kcal, 232kJ, 0.9g protein, 1.8g fat, 0.3g fibre, 9.4g carbohydrates

Photo: Wynnie Chan

Steamed pork balls with sticky rice

A mixture of black and white glutinous rice can be used for this recipe. If you like, you can also add chopped rehydrated Chinese mushrooms and water chestnuts. 

Ingredients (makes around 20)

150g glutinous rice

200g lean minced pork

1 tbsp cornflour

2 spring onions, finely chopped

thumbsize piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely chopped

1 small carrot, peeled, finely chopped

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil 

1 tsp ground white pepper


1 Rinse the rice in two or three changes of water, or until the water is no longer milky. Drain. Place the rice in a large bowl, cover with plenty water and allow to soak for at least 2 hours. Drain and spread the rice out on a clean tea towel to dry.

2 Combine the pork, cornflour, spring onions, ginger, carrots, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper in a large bowl. Shape heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls. 

3 Roll each ball in the rice, pressing gently so that the rice sticks to the meat. Place on a lightly greased heatproof plate. 

4 Set a rack in the bottom of a large saucepan or wok, fill with water to within 2cm of the bottom of the rack, cover the pan and bring to the boil. 

5 Carefully set the plate on the rack, cover and steam for 20 minutes over a medium-high heat. 

6 Place each ball in a ceramic rice spoon, arrange spoons on a plate, and serve immediately.

Nutritional information per 100g: 88kcal, 373kJ, 7g protein, 1.7g fat, 11.9g carbohydrates, 0.5g fibre

Photo: Wynnie Chan

Walnut biscuits

Ingredients (Makes 24 biscuits)

50g walnuts, roasted

100g light muscovado sugar

100g butter, softened

1/4 tsp salt

150g plain flour

75g wholemeal flour

1 small egg

12 walnut halves


1 Preheat the oven to 190C/ 170C fan/ Gas Mark 5.

2 Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and set aside.

3 Coarsely blitz the walnuts in a food processor or bash with rolling pin inside a sealed plastic bag. Set aside. 

4 Beat butter and sugar together with hand blender until light and creamy, then keep mixing, and gradually add the egg. Sift in the salt, plain and wholemeal flours, and walnuts, and combine to form a stiff dough.

5 Roll teaspoonfuls of dough into balls. Set the balls about 3cm apart on the baking tray and press a walnut half onto the top of each.

6 Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden, then let cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. 

Nutritional information per biscuit: 112kcal, 469kJ, 3.0g protein, 7.0g fat, 11.3g carbohydrates, 0.6g fibre

Spring onion cakes

Ingredients (Makes 16 pieces) 

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

pinch sugar

100ml hot water

1 1/2 tbsp grapeseed oil

50g (about 4-5) spring onions, finely sliced


1 Sift flour, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Slowly pour in the water and mix with a fork until a dough is formed. Bring the dough together and knead until firm. Wrap with clingfilm and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2 Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, and divide into two. Roll out each piece into a circle about 17cm diameter. Brush top with about 1 tsp oil, but not too close to the edges. Sprinkle half the spring onions over each, then roll up tightly so you have a rope of dough. 

3 Starting at one end, coil the rolls into spirals and flatten, then roll out to circles roughly 15cm diameter. 

4 Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat, pour in 1/2 tsp of the remaining oil, lower the heat, slide in one cake, cover and fry for 4-5 minutes. Turn over and fry the other side. Slide onto kitchen paper to blot off any excess oil. Repeat with the other cake.

5 Cut each cake into eight pieces and serve hot with a dipping sauce made with equal quantities of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, sprinkled with chopped spring onions.

Nutritional information per piece: 52kcal, 220kJ, 1.2g protein, 1.1g fat, 9.9g carbohydrates


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Kerry Hoo