10 Traditional Holiday Cookies From Southeast Asia
When the holidays are approaching, my inner baker tells me to start looking for holiday cookie recipes. A holiday would be just an ordinary day without these traditional treats!
My kitchen gets very busy as the holidays near. We always have friends, relatives, and colleagues coming over, which means we have more mouths to feed (and more dishes to do). I love making holiday cookies to serve to all of our guests.
If you visit any Southeast Asian country during the holiday season, you are sure to find many of these delicacies in the shops and markets.
Where to Find Your Holiday Cookies
The holidays come around only once a year, so people often splurge on these special seasonal treats.
Gourmet cookies and other edible souvenirs are often sold in niche snack shops that are oriented toward tourists. Sometimes, however, these shops aren't listed in the guidebooks and don’t pop up on Google Maps, so you might need to do some intense searching to locate them.
Another option is to go to the mall, which will often have a snack shop inside. My usual approach is to head to the supermarkets and hypermarkets to buy one of the supermarket cookie brands.
Finally, you can always look online. There are many sites and apps that allow you to order these holiday cookies and have them delivered directly to your doorstep.
10 Regional Specialties
Now let's have a closer look at some of these traditional Southeast Asian holiday cookies!
- Pineapple Tarts
- Tua Pan Tord
- Tapioca Cookies
- Kampar Kai Chai Paeng, or Kampar Chicken Biscuits
- Sesame Balls
- Kembang Loyang
- Peanut Cookies
- Mung Bean Pastry
- Sriracha Cookies
1. Pineapple Tarts
Pineapple tarts are soft, bite-sized biscuits filled with pineapple jam. These tarts are popular in Indonesia, where they are called nastar, and in Malaysia and Singapore, where they are known as tat nanas and kueh tae. Pineapple tarts come in different shapes and sizes. The jam can be positioned either on top of the flat cookie or inside as a filling.
2. Tua Pan Tord
Tua pan tord are sweet, nutty, crispy peanut cookies that can be found in Thailand and Singapore. These cookies are topped with redskin peanuts and then fried until golden brown. They are served both as a dessert and as a snack.
They are easy to make and easy to store, but they don't usually last for more than a day if not refrigerated.
Similar types of cookies can also found in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, where they are served as salty snack bites.
In Indonesia, these cookies are called peyek or rempeyek. The cookie is much thinner and larger in diameter, making them more like crackers. These crispy crackers are often made to accompany fried rice and other meals. Malaysians call them kuih rempeyek or rempeyek kacang.
3. Tapioca Cookies
Also known as sago cookies, tapioca cookies are made from tapioca (sago) flour. In Malaysia, these cookies are called kuih bangkit; in Singapore they are called kueh bangkit; in Indonesia they are called kue bangkit; and in Vietnam they are known as bánh phục linh.
These cookies are very powdery and sweet, but they have a distinctive trait: they melt in your mouth. The ingredients include eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and of course tapioca flour.
4. Kampar Kai Chai Paeng, or Kampar Chicken Biscuits
This type of cookie is a popular souvenir or gift amongst visitors to Kampar in Perak, Malaysia. In the past, these cookies were traditionally shaped like baby chickens to appeal to children, but this practice has faded. Today, Kampar biscuits are mostly shaped into thin, large rounds. The recipe incorporates Chinese Five Spice Powder, garlic, eggs, crystallized melon, and fermented bean curd.
5. Sesame Balls
You can find sesame balls just about everywhere in Southeast Asia, China, and even in Japan. In China, they are called jian dui, and in Singapore, they are known as zeen doy. In Vietnam, they are called bánh cam (or bánh rán in North Vietnam). In Malaysia, they are known as kuih bom, and in Indonesia, they are known as onde-onde or kue keciput.
These yummy cookies are very common street snacks that are also sold as tea cakes. Its various filling options include bean curd, peanut, black sesame paste, mung bean curd, and even cheese and fruits, like dates and fig. They’re easy to make and easy to store at home.
6. Kembang Loyang
These famous fried snacks look like roses. In Malaysia, they are known as kuih kembang loyang, kembang goyang, or kuih rose. In Indonesia, they are called kembang loyang or kembang goyang. Singaporeans know these fried cakes as kuih loyang. The Chinese call them honeycomb cookies, and they are served together with other holiday cookies to celebrate Chinese New Year. These delicacies can also be found in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
To make them, you fry a coconut milk and egg mixture using rose moulds.
7. Peanut Cookies
Traditional Chinese peanut cookies are very commonly found all over Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, people sell them particularly around the Chinese New Year, as well as throughout the year. The recipe calls for flour, ground peanuts, sugar, and eggs.
In Indonesia, these cookies are also known simply as peanut butter cookies. The recipe is modified, and the ground peanuts are replaced with processed peanut butter.
8. Mung Bean Pastry
The mung bean pastry goes by many names depending on where you are in the region. In the Philippines, they are called mung bean hopia, or simply hopia. In Indonesia, they are called bakpia or bakpia pathok, and they are often sold as gifts. In Malaysia, they are known as penang tau sar piah, or locally as tambun biscuits, said to have originated from Penang. Singaporeans call them tau sar piah, and the Vietnamese know them as bánh pía or bánh bía.
Paciencia cookies are Filipino-style meringue cookies. The name itself comes from the Spanish word paciencia, which means patience. These cookies are popular snacks that are made using egg whites, sugar, and flour. They are baked during the holiday season and are frequently purchased as gifts. They are light, crispy, and easy to bake and store.
There are many other traditional sweet biscuits and cookies that are popular in the Philippines, including the galletas de patatas, toasted mamon, barquillos, broas, pilipit, puto seko, otap, paborita, and camachile.
10. Sriracha Cookies
Sriracha cookies are not actually found in Thailand, but cookie recipes that call for this famous Thai hot sauce have been popping up online. Using this spicy sauce to heat up your cookies is so easy—all you need is some Sriracha and a basic cookie recipe. Add the Thai hot sauce as you blend the ingredients together. I find that Sriracha goes well with both honey and chocolate chips, but feel free to experiment and create your own Sriracha-inflected dessert. (You don't need to limit yourself to cookies, either. People have also used Sriracha as a donut filling, for example!)
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