Last Saturday I decided to go to Chinatown to see what the hustle and bustle was like the weekend before Chinese New Year. It was crazed, kind of like Mega Mall two days before Christmas! Parking was full, sidewalks jampacked with people and boxed tikoy waiting to be delivered or purchased piled high all over the main street of Ongpin. Never quite got the story on why tikoy is the it thing for Chinese New Year but I do love hopia so I figured my tribute to a Happy Chinese New Year would be to get a whole load of hopia.
Eng Bee Tin is one of the first stores you reach when you start walking down Ongpin from the Church. I recall buying hopia there and at other landmarks such as Polland decades ago. In those days, the hopia was packaged in this opaque thin wax paper that had to be peeled off before the thing was eaten. The flaky crust of the pastry hiding the burst of mung bean paste with sugar within would leach oil onto the waxy paper. I suspect the oil was lard (which gave it flavor) rather than the healthier corn oil used today. Gone are those days and in with the new… very colorful and snazzy automated foil packaging that now provides convenient sized packages with four pieces of hopia inside. The “new generation” hopia still tastes great but now comes with the reassuring(? ) promise that it hasn’t been packed by hand (presumably to make you happy there are less cooties, and perhaps to take a stab at anyone else selling it but who still packs it the old-fashioned way) and that it has passed through a metal(?) detector. Never had problems with bullets or staples in my hopia before but it’s nice to know this anyway, kinda like those poor guards at the malls that have to feel you up every time you go through the doors but have never found anything lethal in the past 2,900 hours of duty…
Hopia is now available in several flavors — the tradtional mung bean, red mung bean, ube, pandan, pork, etc. I tend to be a traditionalist on these things so I bought lots of mung bean and a few of the other just to try. While the other flavors are interesting, I am a mung bean fan. At P25-30 for each foil package, you can walk away with several packages and flavors. The store was so full of crazed shoppers that I felt an impending hopia shortage so I piled over 12 packages into my basket. Someone should do a study on Filipino food hoarding habits. I notice these slick packages were also in Metro malls over the weekend but they were 20-25% more expensive than at the main store in Chinatown.
Hopia should be refrigerated to keep it fresh. But it’s best to eat it within a couple of days as it does tend to taste old after a while. A little trick is to stick it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds before you eat it to crisp up the pastry and warm up the mung bean paste…yum. Happy Chinese New Year!!!