In Singapore, where life centres on food especially during the festive season, nothing says Christmas quite like an edible food gift.
Shoppers are spoilt for choice this year, with a record number of home-grown companies making and selling artisanal food that include bubor cha cha nougat, coffee kaya, smoky artisanal chilli and spicy kimchi.
There is also Speculoos cookie butter - a spread made with a type of European biscuit that includes spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg; tropical fruit marmalades and jams; and wine-inspired tea blends.
Most are made in small batches in commercial kitchens here, or overseas - to the companies' specifications.
Although there are just four days to Christmas, it is still possible to place online orders or visit shops to pick up some lastminute presents and gift boxes.
Some companies have come up with Christmas offerings, including Christmas Cake Granola by Eastern Granola, The Edible Company's Almost Perfect Granola Christmas Special and Strictly Pastry's candy cane meringues.
One-stop shops have also popped up online and in bricks and mortar.
There is Crateful, which has a pop-up shop in Yong Siak Street until February; Naiise, another online shop with a pop-up in Dunlop Street until Christmas Eve; and online artisanal food and kitchenware shop Batch.
Naiise was launched in January last year. Its marketing director, Ms Amanda Eng, 29, says: "We look for brands which are meaningful, driven by a passion or a cause, and which have unique product offerings.
Their products should be carefully designed and crafted for the community and we work closely with each of them to tell and share their story with our consumers."
Naiise stocks about 150 products from around 30 brands, of which about 20 are local artisan producers.
Ms Debbie Yong, 29, founder of monthold online shop Batch, says: "The focus is on creating a platform to give the small guys a fighting chance against the big industrial foodmakers. You won't find any commercially produced labels that you usually see in supermarkets on Batch."
Purveyors say they stock their wares with such companies because, as smallbatch producers, it not only gives them more time to focus on food production, but it also helps to raise awareness because of the high traffic these sites receive.
Cookbook author and chef Devagi Sanmugam, 59, who launched her range of sambals and sauces last month, recently started selling items such as her Apple Chilli Chutney on Naiise and Batch.
She says: "This way, I am able to reach a variety of foodie customers, some of whom may never have heard of me."
Ms Chin Hui Wen, 26, founder of Eastern Granola, which started in March, says: "The increase in the number of websites and shops that sell a range of brands is definitely a good thing. It gives small-batch producers like me a good platform to raise awareness and helps to keep costs of delivery and packaging down."
Shoppers say food is a great way to make friends and family feel special.
Bank executive Tanya Ong, 38, likes the idea of giving people edible presents because that way, they do not go to waste.
She says: "Loose leaf teas in various blends, speciality granola or just a jar of jam, can be wonderful and meaningful. It is also a bonus that by buying these items, we are helping local small-batch producers and not helping fast-moving consumer conglomerates get richer."BATCH
EARL GREY, COFFEE, AND VANILLA KAYA BY THE SOCIAL FOOD COMPANY
What: Local artisan producer The Social Company has rolled out three flavours of kaya - Vanilla, Coffee and Earl Grey.
Made with cane sugar, coconut milk, eggs, pandan, try one of the new flavours on toast or with pancakes or waffles.
Price: $10 for a 200g jar
TWO RABBITS SMOKY CHILLI
What: The artisanal chilli is made here and contains ingredients such as fresh and dried chillies, garlic, shallots and shrimp paste. Add it to pasta or noodles, or use it as a dipping sauce.
Price: $12 for a 200ml jar
APPLE CHILLI CHUTNEY BY DEVAGI SANMUGAM
What: Singaporean-Indian cooking doyenne Devagi Sanmugam's Apple Chilli Chutney is sweet and fruity, with a slight hint of heat from the chillies.
Add the chutney to your favourite sandwich for some extra kick, or eat it with turkey breast or roast pork.
Price: $12 for a 370g jar
5-SPICE MEAT RUB BY BATCH & MADAM TAN
What: Ms Shen Tan, who used to run now-defunct modern Singaporean restaurant Wok & Barrel and a nasi lemak stall at Maxwell Food Centre, has collaborated with Batch to produce a meat rub.
A secret blend of Asian and Western herbs and spices, the rub can be used on poultry, pork and lamb.
Price: $10 for a 125g bottle
What: If you are not keen to buy individual items, opt for one of Batch's gift boxes instead.
Items in the boxes, depending on which one you choose, can include Carpenter & Cook's festive Merry Berry Jam, Restaurant Labyrinth's Balsamic Jam and 75 per cent Dark Cocoa Drinking Blend from The Cacaosians.
Price: $30, $45 or $55 a box
PLAIN VANILLA BAKERY
Where: Two outlets - Holland Village, 34A Lorong Mambong, Level 2; and 1D Yong Siak Street
Open: Holland Village - noon to 8pm (Tuesday to Saturday), noon to 6pm (Sunday), closed on Monday; Yong Siak Street - 11am to 8pm (Tuesday to Friday), 9am to 8pm (Saturday); 9am to 6pm (Sunday), closed on Monday.
During the Christmas period, both stores will open tomorrow - noon to 8pm (Holland Village), 11am to 8pm (Yong Siak Street).
On Christmas Eve, both outlets will close at 4pm.
The shops are closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and will reopen on Saturday.
Info: Call 6465-5942 or 8299-9422 (for advance orders and general inquiries); or 8363-7615 (Holland Village, for same-day orders); or 8363-7614 (Yong Siak Street, for same-day orders).
Delivery is available at an additional charge.
What: Plain Vanilla's range of Christmas cookies includes Sugared Gingerbread Stars ($16.90 for 150g), Rosemary Lemon Shortbread ($16 for 200g) and Cinnamon Butter Cookies ($16.90 for 150g).
What: For a touch of sweetness this Christmas, give your friends jars of scented sugar.
Options include Citrus, Lavender Blossoms and Vanilla Bean (from $13.90 for 360g).
What: There are four types of house-made granola available - House Blend, Tropical Blend, Chocolate Blend and Maple Blend (from $13.50 for 280g and from $18 for 600g).
What: Christmas cupcake flavours include Chocolate Brandy Butter Cupcakes, Gingerbread Cupcakes and White Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes ($3.80 each).
What: Choose from eight hamper options. Prices range from $70 to $140 each. A Plain Vanilla Festive Gift Hamper ($140), for instance, includes Cinnamon Butter Cookies, three scented soy candles, a tea towel and a choice of scented sugar, loose leaf tea, granola and three large cookies.CRATEFUL
Where: 1M Yong Siak Street Open: 10am to 7pm (Monday to Saturday), 10am to 6pm (Sunday).
It will close at 1pm on Christmas Eve and will be closed all day Christmas Day and Boxing Day; reopens on Dec 27
Tomorrow is the last day for online orders if you want it delivered in time for Christmas.
The pop-up shop closes at the end of February.
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (right) by Nutteree What: The rich nut butter, which is made in small batches, has no preservatives and is suitable for those with peanut allergies.
It is made with hazelnuts, Valrhona cocoa, raw honey, olive oil and sea salt.
Price: $16 for a 190g jar
Mofo Kimchi by Mofo Chili
What: This is the newest addition to Mofo Chili's range of products.
The spicy kimchi is made here and contains ingredients such as cabbage, onion, radish, ginger, garlic, salted shrimp and anchovy sauce.
Price: $8 for a 200g jar
Candy Cane and Meelo Chocolate Milo Meringues by Strictly Pastry
What: Local pastry shop Strictly Pastry is offerings two meringues for the festive season - a minty one with bits of candy cane and a slightly chewy one with malty Milo.
Price: $5 a packet
Almost Perfect Granola Christmas Special by The Edible Company
What: The Christmas edition includes spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
Other ingredients range from dried apricots to cashews to pumpkin seeds.
Price: $14 for a 350g pack
Christmas Cake Granola by Eastern Granola
What: The spiced granola (right) tastes like a fruit cake and includes bits of orange peel, sour cherries and currants soaked in cognac.
Price: $12.50 for 250gSHERMAY'S SINGAPORE FINE FOOD
Where: Shermay's Cooking School, Block 43 Jalan Merah Saga, 01-76 Open: 10am to 8.30pm daily
Info: Call 6479-8442 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
What: The traditional Singaporean red chilli sauce is moderately spicy with a refreshing and tangy flavour.
It is based on culinary school founder Shermay Lee's grandmother's handwritten recipe.
It goes well with kueh pie tee, popiah and Hainanese chicken rice, and can also be used as a dipping sauce for savoury Asian snacks and dishes such as ngoh hiang, fishballs and spring rolls.
Ms Lee will also be launching a range of bak kwa marinades next month. Price: $9.95 for a 240g jar.
Also available at Crateful and batch.sg
Info: To order, go to nomnom.sg.
For inquiries, call 9046-1323.
The company offers a monthly dessert subscription service, curating desserts and pastries from various home-grown shops.
Last orders for logcakes should be made today.
Last day for The Secret Santa Box orders is tomorrow.
Deliveries will be made on Christmas Eve, between 11am and 5pm, or 6 and 10pm.
THE SECRET SANTA BOX
What: The gift box contains four pieces of cranberry pistachio biscotti from Carpenter & Cook, a chocolate truffle tart from Cupplets at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, a gingerbread man from Butter Studio and a Christmas cupcake from Charlotte Grace in Toa Payoh Lorong 4.
VALRHONA CHOCOLATE KIRSCH-SOAKED CHERRY LOGCAKE FROM CARPENTER & COOK
What: The home-grown bakerycafe, which sells items such as tarts, biscuits and quiches, is offering a chocolate logcake with kirschsoaked cherries this year.
RED VELVET STUMP DE NOEL FROM BUTTER STUDIO
What: Butter Studio's signature Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting is made to look like a Christmas tree stump.
Where: Naiise pop-up store, 72/74 Dunlop Street, till Wednesday
Open: Noon to 7pm daily Info: Orders can also be made online.
Go to www.naiise.com.
The last day for online orders to be delivered in time for Christmas is tomorrow.
Cashew Ginger Nut Butter by GoNuts Nut Butters
What: For a nut butter with a twist, opt for the one made with cashews and ginger.
Other ingredients include macadamia nuts, organic honey and sea salt.
Price: $10 for a 90g jar
Orange Figs Walnut Sugar-free Chia Jam by The Blend & Press Co.
What: Unlike other jams which are made with pectin, this one is thickened with chia seeds.
It contains no added sugar and is made with orange, fig and also walnuts.
The company has other chia jams, including Cinnamon Apple Pear and Mango Passionfruit.
Price: $6.50 for a 50ml jar (available in limited quantities), $17 for a 200ml jar
Spice Island Marmalade and Tropical Calamansi Marmalade by Straits Preserves
What: These aromatic marmalades are made with tropical fruit.
The Spice Island one is made with pineapple, lime, orange and spices, while the Tropical Calamansi, as the name suggests, is made with calamansi limes and also includes pineapple.
Straits Preserves also has a Singapore Sling marmalade, inspired by the famed cocktail created by a bartender at the Raffles Hotel.
Price: $14.50 for a 220g jar
This article was first published on December 21, 2014.
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