Over The Moon
These Mid-autumn Festival mooncakes are a feast for the eyes and the palate
Mooncakes are more than a treat to have during the Mid-autumn Festival; they’re a delicacy steeped in legend and have become an industry unto themselves come the festival season.
A popular mooncake legend is that Ming revolutionaries, needing to secretly coordinate a revolt against the ruling Mongols, spread a rumour that a deadly disease was on the rise and mooncakes were the only cure. Thus, no one batted an eyelid when mooncakes were quickly distributed to the people. When they were cut open, a hidden message told recipients that the revolt was set for the 15th day of the eighth lunar month – the day we now celebrate as the Mid-autumn Festival.
Today, mooncakes are synonymous with the Mid-autumn Festival and symbolise unity and togetherness. They’re meant to be eaten with friends and family during moon-gazing gatherings, accompanied by cups of tea. It’s also customary to gift mooncakes to clients and loved ones during this time, driving retailers to produce unique flavours and packaging to entice customers.
Mooncakes are usually round with a crust and a dense, sweet paste filling, with sizes varying from bite-size to a large fist. Chinese characters representing the name of the bakery or the words ‘longevity’ and ‘harmony’ will adorn the top. You’ll commonly see two types of mooncakes being sold in stores: the original baked mooncakes and the newer ‘snow skin’ mooncakes.
This year, Pullman KLCC’S Chinese restaurant Tai Zi Heen has come up with four variants each for baked and snow skin mooncakes. We’re a big fan of the baked mooncake with bamboo charcoal paste and macadamia nut as the crumbly nuts and juicy raisins relieve the dense chewiness of the mooncake. The black sesame with a mung bean paste centre combines two traditional ingredients into a sweet yet slightly savoury treat.
The snow skin offerings come in miniature, which means you can eat them whole if you don’t want to share. We love the mini mango and cheese paste, which tastes like cheesecake with mango chunks. The mini dark chocolate and single malt whisky is a popular choice with the smoky whisky flavour complementing the rich chocolate.
Pullman Kuala Lumpur City Centre Hotel & Residences Jalan Conlay, Kuala Lumpur Tel: 03-2170 8888 Pullman-kualalumpur- citycentre.com
Chinese characters representing the name of the bakery or the words ‘ longevity’ or ‘ harmony’ will adorn the top”
Snow skin mooncakes were created in the late 1960s after a demand for ‘healthier’ mooncakes. People felt that traditional baked mooncake fillings like salted duck egg yolk and lotus seed paste, along with the lard and sugar syrup used to make the crust, made the mooncakes high in sugar and oil. Therefore, the crust was replaced by glutinous rice, the fillings were replaced with fruit, and the no-bake snow skin mooncake was born.
Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Chinese fine dining restaurant, Chynna, is known for their inventive snow skin mooncake flavours. This year, the glittering red ‘Roselle Ruby’ is the star of the show and features a roselle heart – a hibiscus plant commonly used in drinks here - within a pistachio paste filling with macadamia n uts and chocolate. The contrasting textures and flavours are eclectic yet harmonious, sweet with a tinge of sour when you encounter the roselle.
The Musang King (a premium type of durian) snow skin mooncake is also famous here and its aromatic, creamy durian filling is aptly named ‘Heavenly Gold’. It’s joined by other poetically-named favourites like ‘Blue Moon’ (a creamy confection of amaretto lotus paste with blueberry cheese feuillantine) and ‘Flower Drum’ (lotus paste with soft salted egg yolk custard).
Hilton Kuala Lumpur 3 Jalan Stesen Sentral 5, Kuala Lumpur Sentral, Kuala Lumpur Tel: 03-2264 2264 life.hiltonkl.com
The crust was replaced with glutinous rice, the fillings were replaced with fruit and the nobake snow skin was born”
Besides baked and snow skin, other variants of mooncakes (though it’s debatable whether they still qualify as mooncakes) have emerged in recent years. In Malaysia, we’ve seen chocolate, jelly and even ice cream variants. These might appeal to children and adults who don’t like the taste or texture of regular mooncakes, but still want to participate in the tradition – or to those who want to try a contemporary version of a classic.
The Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur has come up with a box of chocolate mooncakes for a decadent Mid-autumn gift. The all-chocolate mooncakes are small, so we don’t advise trying to cut them into eighths (trust us, we tried); quarters will do. By far our favourite was the Gianduja hazelnut chocolate with oolong tea - a luxur ious combination of an Italian classic and refined Chinese tea.
The caramelised white chocolate, sea salt caramel, biscuit pearls and dulcey ganache is sinful and one for the sweet tooths. We’d also like to give honourable mention to the durian snow skin mooncake with its velvety filling and perfect skin-tofilling ratio; as well as the baked lotus paste with single egg yolk for the ideal balance between sweet and savoury.
Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Kuala Lumpur Tel: 03-2380 8888 mandarinoriental.com
The caramelised white chocolate, sea salt caramel, biscuit pearls and dulcey ganache is sinful and one for sweet tooths”
Actual mooncakes aside, how they are presented is becoming increasingly important. Since mooncakes are commonly given as gifts, especially between businesses, first impressions count and that’s where the box plays its par t in the ‘wow’ factor. This year we’ve seen everything from classic miniature Chinese cupboards and silk-wr apped, tiffinstyle containers to leather-wrapped swivelling half-moons and compartmentalised boxes in vibrant red and gold.
The Westin Kuala Lumpur’s mooncake boxes are designed to be interactive and useful even long after the mooncakes are gone. The Bloom Mooncake Gift Set packages mooncakes within wooden drawers and a do-ityourself terrarium kit perched on top – we’ll let you know how our grass grows. We also want the new Bluetooth speaker-incorporated treasure box in the YUÈ mooncake gift set; you could play Teresa Teng’s iconic song ‘The Moon Represents My Hear t’ and snack on mooncakes at the same time!
Our mooncake picks from The Westin are the Lotus Pandan, sweet and aromatic; the Low Sugar Plain White Lotus with Single Yolk, whose salted egg yolk heart lends a savoury bite to the lotus seeds’ dense sweetness; and the flavourful Red Bean. They can be on the sweet side, so take note. For something slightly different but still traditional, the Charcoal Precious Black replaces cr unchy lotus seeds with dried longan and wolfberries, which are staple ingredients in Chinese herbal soups. EL
The Westin Kuala Lumpur 199 Jalan Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur Tel: 03-2731 8333 www.thewestinkualalumpur.com
The Charcoal Precious Black replaces crunchy lotus seeds with dried longan and wolfberries, staple ingredients in Chinese herbal soups”
SNOW SKIN MOONC AKES IN ROSELLE RUBY, HEAVENLY GOLD , BLUE MOON AND FLO WER DRUM
CHOCOLATE MOONC AKES GIFT BO X FR OM MANDARIN ORIENTAL KUALA LUMPUR