Over The Moon

These Mid-au­tumn Fes­ti­val moon­cakes are a feast for the eyes and the palate

Expatriate Lifestyle - - Contents - Words by Karin Chan Photo by Hil­ton Kuala Lumpur, Man­darin Ori­en­tal Kuala Lumpur, Pull­man Kuala Lumpur City Cen­tre Ho­tel & Res­i­dences, The Westin Kuala Lumpur

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

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