Red ‘ong lai’ makes auspicious comeback

Red pineapples with tall and spiky crowns are back in the market, and are sought after by those who want an auspicious touch to their prayers.


Fortune hunting: Wong Yee Yain, 24, picking out red pineapples at Pulau Tikus market to add an auspicious touch to the Chinese New Year celebration. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star.

January 18, 2023

GEORGE TOWN – For the Chinese community, pineapples play an important part in the Lunar New Year celebrations, as they call it “ong lai”, which sounds exactly like “fortune comes” in the Hokkien dialect.

And it is even better if the pineapples are red.

Red pineapples with disproportionately tall, spiky crowns are back in the market for Chinese New Year and are sought after by those who want an auspicious touch to their prayers.

Clothing trader Jeffrey Chin, 48, who sells the fruit yearly, said the pineapples are harvested at a friend’s farm in Balik Pulau.

“These pineapples are unlike ordinary ones as they are more for decoration and prayers than to be eaten,” said Chin at the Pulau Tikus market.

He said that while red pineapples were not as sweet, they could be kept for up to two months.

Priced between RM5 and RM20 each depending on the size, Chin said many customers purchased them this year after life returned to “normal”.

They were even willing to pay more for the fruit.

“If you are expecting guests, having a red pineapple to decorate the house is something that is auspicious. Many families are performing prayers on a larger scale this year, and the red pineapples can last throughout the two-week festivity,” he added.

However, Chin said a shortage of supply would mean there would be fewer of these pineapples this year.

“I’m fortunate to obtain a steady supply from my friend’s farm.

“The rainy season last year reduced the harvest by almost 40%,” he said.

This rare pineapple variety is believed to have originated in South America and is often grown as an ornamental plant. While the outside is red, the flesh is pink.

Meanwhile, tiny ang pow packets are in vogue, as proven by their high demand, says Lee Jin Huat, 67.

With over 30 varieties to choose from, these ang pow packets measure only 5cm by 4cm, and they are so unique that people buy them in bundles.

“You just have to fold your money several times to slip it inside. Some just wanted to buy them as decorations,” said the ang pow trader.

The packets are sold for between RM6 and RM10 for packs of 20 or 40 pieces.

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