Mahjong pineapple tarts, anyone? Two Malaysians add festive cheer to CNY treats

To add some festive cheer during the pandemic, Yong has created mahjong-inspired pineapple tarts to welcome the Year of the Ox. Photos: Jil Yong

With Chinese New Year just a few weeks away, Kuala Lumpur-based makeup trainer Jil Yong, 36, and her friend, baker and homemaker Alice San, 28, decided to do something different to add to the festive spirit.

What came to mind was the tile-based game of mahjong, widely played in Asia but also well-received worldwide.

“Mahjong is a popular game that requires skill, strategy and calculation. It is played not only during Chinese New Year but throughout the year. Whenever the game is played, the ambience is always filled with good vibes. The best part is you get to bond with family members and friends when playing this game.

Alice San says it takes time and patience to paint mahjong tile characters on the tarts.Alice San says it takes time and patience to paint mahjong tile characters on the tarts.

“So I thought it would be nice to paint mahjong tile designs on rectangular-shaped pineapple tarts, ” said Yong during a phone interview recently.

The pineapple filling is encased in a shortcrust pastry made from flour, egg, butter and sugar. Each tart follows the actual size of a mahjong tile, measuring 2.8cm x 3.8cm. Yong uses a cutter to stamp the hand-drawn designs onto the pastry. It is then baked and decorated with edible food paint.

The women follow the mahjong winning combination of 13 Wonders, comprising 13 tiles in different symbols and Chinese characters.

“It takes between 30 seconds and two minutes to paint a design. It depends on the intricacy and the number of colours used to paint each tart. On average, we can complete between 150 and 300 pieces in 10 hours.

The tile designs follow the winning combination of The tile designs follow the winning combination of "13 Wonders".

“Painting the gao man (jiu wan) tile is the most challenging because the calligraphy style is complex. The imperfections always end up in my tummy, ” joked Yong.

The business partners have posted their creative designs on Support Malaysian Restaurant’s Facebook page.

Last November, the game of mahjong gained more attention in the Western world when three American women recreated mahjong tile sets in designs like bags of flour, the word "bam" and other motifs.

However, it received a fair bit of negative feedback on social media for disrespecting Chinese culture.

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