Over the Moon

How to recognise a top-quality mooncake, what goes into creating the different flavours, and what healthy options are available – go on a mooncake safari to find out!

Issue: Sep 2014

Peony Jade’s Top Grade Pure Mao Shan Wang Durian Mooncake, extra smooth localised version of the mooncake
Peony Jade’s Top Grade Pure Mao Shan Wang Durian Mooncake in Organic Pandan Snow Skin combines Singapore’s favourite fruit with the fragrant pandan for a super rich, extra smooth localised version of the mooncake
Photo credit: Peony Jade

On the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake or Lantern Festival is observed. Mooncakes are savoured and lanterns displayed to remember the ancient practice of celebrating the harvest that dates back to the Shang Dynasty.

Adding romance to the occasion are stories associated with the festivity. From the mythical moon goddess, Chang’e, to messages hidden in pastries that helped the Chinese win a war, the clarity of the festival’s origins has waned over the centuries.

Baked, with snow skin or a flaky crust; sweet or savoury - mooncakes come in as many different varieties as there are people who enjoy them
Baked, with snow skin or a flaky crust; sweet or savoury - mooncakes come in as many different varieties as there are people who enjoy them
Photo credit: Crystal Jade

One thing, however, has stood the test of time - the mooncakes themselves. They have not only grown in popularity, they have multiplied in variety, too. We go on a mooncake safari to find out what new flavours are available this season, how they came about, and how they can be best appreciated.

Peony Jade's Low Sugar Baked Mooncake with Premium Mother of Pearl White Lotus Paste & Single Yolk is a picture of perfection
With glossy skin, moist filling, and a well-placed golden yolk, Peony Jade’s Low Sugar Baked Mooncake with Premium Mother of Pearl White Lotus Paste & Single Yolk (S$33 for 2 pieces, S$59 for 4 pieces) is a picture of perfection
Photo credit: Peony Jade

What Makes a Good Mooncake?

Traditional mooncakes have a thin, soft skin baked to a delicious brown and are filled with sweet lotus paste with one or more salted egg yolks to symbolise the moon. A good mooncake is glossy and evenly browned on the outside, a mark that it has been recently baked and has yet not dried out. The filling is smooth and moist while the duck’s egg yolk within a shiny golden orb, a sure sign of its freshness and quality.

Two other things might be considered as well: the number of yolks and their placement. Traditionalists prefer more yolks in their mooncake to balance the sweet filling. The health conscious balk at the cholesterol count. Whether plenty or few, a well-placed yolk is often appreciated. This means that when the mooncake is cut into eighths, as is often the practice, each portion will have a little yolk in it.

The Magnificent Five from Crystal Jade
The Magnificent Five from Crystal Jade includes the Super Five Yolks White Lotus Paste as well as a Plain White Lotus Paste mooncake, White Lotus Paste with Double Egg Yolk mooncake, Red Lotus Paste with Double Egg Yolk mooncake, and Mixed Nuts & Ham mooncake
Photo credit: Crystal Jade

Go Healthy with These Variations

The snow skin mooncake is a later variation of the baked mooncake. Developed by a bakery in Hong Kong, they were an attempt to create a heathier version of the traditional mooncake that is usually rich in sugar and oil. Because the snow skin varieties are made without baking, high temperatures cannot be used to kill any bacteria. So, they are kept refrigerated to extend their shelf life.

Snow skin mooncakes of today boast myriad flavours of skins and filling. It is debatable whether they are still healthier than baked mooncakes, but they certainly impress with their variety.

(Left) Mini Snowskin Silver Lotus Paste from Peony Jade; (Right) Snow Lotus Konnyaku Mooncake at Crystal Jade
(Left) Go healthy with the Mini Snowskin Silver Lotus Paste with ‘Gui-Hua’ Cassia Flowers and Melon Seeds Mooncake from Peony Jade with health revitalising gui hua; (Right) and Japanese Konnyaku-inspired mooncakes like the Snow Lotus Konnyaku Mooncake (S$22 for 4 pieces) at Crystal Jade that lets you celebrate the Mooncake Festival without the added calories
Photo credit: Peony Jade, Crystal Jade

Savour Mooncakes in Different Ways

Although the primary activity of the Mooncake Festival is families eating mooncakes while admiring the full moon, the different people groups in China have personalised the custom with unique touches of their own. In Fucheng County, the local women cross the Nanpu Bridge during the festival to pray for long life. Jiannin County hangs up lanterns to ask for blessings of children. In Long Yan County, parents dig a small hole in the middle of their mooncakes to signify that some secrets are not meant to be revealed to children.

In Singapore, instead of customs, we localise the festival by putting our own spin to the mooncake, yielding some winning recipes. Peony Jade’s Top Grade Pure Mao Shan Wang Durian Mooncake in Organic Pandan Snow Skin uses the bittersweet Cat Mountain King durian pulp from Pahang.

(Left) The Black Thorn Durian Nyonya Mooncake from Peony Jade; (Right) TWG Tea's Red Lantern Tea Mooncake collection
(Left) The Black Thorn Durian Nyonya Mooncake in Coconut Mini Snowskin, a Peranakan inspired mooncake from Peony Jade complete with the hint of blue that marks many Nonya desserts; (Right) and TWG Tea’s Red Lantern Tea Mooncake collection with their specialty teas infused into the fillings give a Singapore flavour to Chinese mooncakes
Photo credit: Peony Jade, TWG Tea

This year, they pay tribute once more to Singaporean tastes with the new limited edition Black Thorn Durian Nyonya Mooncake in Coconut Mini Snowskin (S$76 for 8 pieces). Stained a light blue in the tradition of Peranakan desserts coloured with blue pea flower dye, the creamy filling has a hint of bitter that is balanced by the lightly fragrant coconut-flavoured skin.

TWG Tea gives their mooncakes another creative spin. Constellation is a golden-crusted mooncake with Singapore Breakfast Tea infused brown lotus filling, roasted melon seeds and a single egg yolk. The mooncake is part of TWG Tea’s new Red Lantern Tea Mooncake collection of eight delicately crafted tea-infused traditional and snow skin mooncakes (S$60 for 4 or S$16 for 1).

(Left) Queen of Earl Grey and (Right) Pink Guava Romance are this season's latest offerings from Swensen's
(Left) Queen of Earl Grey and (Right) Pink Guava Romance are this season’s latest offerings from Swensen’s are localised versions of the mooncakes that are simply cool
Photo credit: Swensen's

Of course, in sweltering Singapore, the ice-cream mooncake (S$32.80 for 4 or S$8.60 per piece) is a local variant that is most welcomed. Swensen’s has a few new flavours this season. The Queen of Earl Grey has the tea-flavoured ice-cream infused with almond bits. The Pink Guava Romance takes the local fruit and makes it into a refreshing ice-cream and encases it in a smooth snow skin.

When East Meets West Is Best

Apart from local flavours, Singapore’s mooncakes incorporates Western influences as well, a reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of the city-state.

Since mooncakes traditionally combine the sweet with the savoury, the use of salty Western ingredients in mooncakes should come as no surprise. Peony Jade offers the Mini Snowskin Mango Philadelphia Cheese Mooncake (S$58 for 8 pieces), a fragrant savoury-sweet blend of fresh Myanmar Diamond Solitaire, also known as Sein Ta Lone, mango cubes with low-fat Philadelphia cream cheese.

(Left) TWG Tea's Mini Snowskin (BanoChoc) Chocolate Salted Caramel Glaze Banana and Walnuts Mooncake; (Right) TWG Tea's snowskin Red Lantern mooncake collection
(Left) Rich, dark Valrhona chocolate and salted caramel usually found in cakes are packed into TWG Tea’s Mini Snowskin (BanoChoc) Chocolate Salted Caramel Glaze Banana and Walnuts Mooncake for an East meets West experience; (Right) The sun-kissed Aurora, paradise blue Serenity, satin white Pure, and ebony black Illumination in TWG Tea’s snowskin Red Lantern mooncake collection have Western inspired fillings and centres
Photo credit: TWG Tea

Banking on the popularity of salted caramel, it also is debuting a new Western-influenced flavor, the Mini Snowskin (BanoChoc) Chocolate Salted Caramel Glaze Banana and Walnuts Mooncake (S$49 for 8 pieces). Dark Valrhona chocolate and sweet Del Monte bananas are used.

Variations on a Lunar Theme

(Left) Peony Jade's Baked Mooncake with Premium
(Left) Peony Jade’s Baked Mooncake with Premium ‘Jin Hua’ Ham and Assorted Nuts and (right) Crystal Jade’s Mixed Nuts & Ham mooncake is a savoury variation of the Cantonese-style mooncake
Photo credit: Peony Jade and Crystal Jade

For a taste of Cantonese-style savoury mooncakes, try Peony Jade’s Baked Mooncake with Premium ‘Jin Hua’ Ham and Assorted Nuts (S$34 for 2 pieces, S$60 for 4 pieces) or Crystal Jade’s Mixed Nuts & Ham mooncake (S$50 for 4 pieces).

This year, as you sample mooncakes of your choice, don’t just enjoy the various flavours. Let the knowledge that you are partaking of thousands of years of history and the divergent talents of Singapore’s chefs send you over the moon!

Dine with us:

Crystal Jade Kitchen
68 Orchard Road
Plaza Singapura
#02-32
Singapore 238839
Tel: (65) 6336 2833
www.crystaljade.com
Crystal Jade Kitchen
4 Tampines Central 5
Tampines Mall
#B1-11
Singapore 529510
Tel: (65) 6788 0633
www.crystaljade.com
Crystal Jade Kitchen
9 Bishan Place
Junction 8
#B1-07
Singapore 579837
Tel: (65) 6255 6366
www.crystaljade.com
Crystal Jade My Bread
9 Bishan Place-07
Junction 8
#B1-07
Singapore 579837
Tel: (65) 6255 6366
www.crystaljade.com
Crystal Jade My Bread
2 Jurong East St 21
IMM Building
#01-83
Singapore
Tel: (65) 6896 0377
www.crystaljade.com
Crystal Jade My Bread
311 New Upper Changi Road
Bedok Mall
#B2-K6
Singapore 467360
Tel: (65) 6844 9622
www.crystaljade.com
Crystal Jade Dining Place
3 Gateway Drive
Westgate
#04-42
Singapore 608532
Tel: (65) 6465 9822
www.crystaljade.com
Crystal Jade Hong Kong Café IN
311 New Upper Changi Road
Bedok Mall
#B1-41/42
Singapore 467360
Tel: (65)68449677
www.crystaljade.com
Peony Jade @ Clarke Quay
Blk 3A
Clarke Quay
#02-02
Singapore 179020
Tel: (65) 6338 0305
www.peonyjade.com
TWG Tea Salon & Boutique
2 Orchard Turn
ION Orchard
#02-21
Singapore 238801
Tel: (65) 6735 1837
www.twgtea.com
Swensen’s
4 Tampines Central 5
Tampines Mall
#03-30
Singapore 529510
Tel: (65) 6781 5489
www.swensens.com.sg
Swensen’s
1 Jelebu Road
Bukit Panjang Plaza
#03-04
Singapore 677743
Tel: (65) 6892 0319
www.swensens.com.sg
Swensen’s
2 Jurong East St 21
IMM Building
#01-111
Singapore 609601
Tel: (65) 6566 7554
www.swensens.com.sg
Swensen’s
200 Victoria Street
Bugis Junction
#01-68
Singapore 180021
Tel: (65) 6336 9784
www.swensens.com.sg
Swensen’s
2 Orchard Turn
ION Orchard
#B1-31
Singapore 238801
Tel: (65) 6884 5967
www.swensens.com.sg
Swensen’s
9 Bishan Place
Junction 8
#01-39
Singapore 579837
Tel: (65) 6252 6229
www.swensens.com.sg
Swensen’s
68 Orchard Road
Plaza Singapura
#03-23
Singapore 238839
Tel: (65) 6837 0650
www.swensens.com.sg
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