Ah, the quintessential pair of mandarin oranges that cannot be left out of any Chinese New Year celebration. I’m sure that most of us who celebrate the occasion had to offer them to our relatives with an enthusiastic greeting, especially when we were kids.
Just gotta do it for the angbaos.
But with the recent COVID-19 restrictions, you probably won’t be exchanging that many mandarin oranges this year. If your plans for the holiday look like a non-stop session of Netflix and nomming on snacks (Hey, no need for guilt. Food is lovely!), how about you prepare for that with the festive fruit?
“But”, I hear you ask, “mandarin oranges are just mandarin oranges!”
I thought so too, dear reader. Though as I’ve just found out yesterday, there are a few types of mandarin oranges. Shocker! (Shame on you author, who has never done mandarin orange shopping.)
If you’re like me, no worries. NTUC FairPrice has prepared a guide on various species of mandarin oranges, so you can pick and choose one that suits your taste buds.
Did you know that there are 4 types of mandarin oranges? According to FairPrice’s guide, there’s the Lukan (芦柑 lú gān), Jiaokan (蕉柑 jiāo gān), Ponkan (椪柑 pèng gān) and Kinnow (蜜柑 mì gān).
The Lukan and Jiaokan originate from China, whereas the Ponkan and Kinnow are from Taiwan and Pakistan respectively.
Why even Mandarin Oranges?
Even before we begin dissecting the various mandarin oranges, perhaps we should ask “when and where exactly did the tradition of giving mandarin oranges during the new year begin?”
According to this article on new year traditions by The Straits Times, the practice of exchanging mandarin oranges came from a southern Chinese custom.
Homophones are widely used in Chinese culture, and the same applies to dialects. In Cantonese, “song gam”—which translates to gifting oranges, has the same pronunciation as the phrase that means “giving gold”.
As such, gifting and receiving mandarin oranges came to symbolise prosperity.
In addition, their bright colours are considered auspicious (If for some reason you can’t find mandarin oranges, maybe a tomato might work too?).
To learn even more about the tradition, click here.
Tangy Tips for Mandarin Orange Gifting
If “go big or go home” resonates with you, perhaps the Ponkan might be your ideal mandarin orange. Its generous size, sweet flavour and skin that is easy to peel (gosh, this is heaven) makes it a good candidate for gifting or eating it by yourself.
Similarly, both the Kinnow and Lukan are good for those who have a sweet tooth, though the latter has a slightly tangy edge.
Last but not the least, the Jiaokan will a-peel (ha!) to people who prefer less sweet items and forgetful eaters. Its relatively thicker skin allows for a longer shelf life because it knows that you have shoved it into the back of your fridge after all the festivities.
If you’re looking to be cautious of your intake of snacks this festive season, this article is for you. For the rest of us who love food, brethren, it is soon time to feast!
Featured Image: Facebook (NTUC FairPrice)