My family moved to Shah Alam many, many moons ago. I was just six then and township was very new. Moving there for me was like moving into a whole new planet. There wasn’t much around and our new home was either surrounded by developing housing projects or palm oil estates. Our immediate neighbours were made up of predominantly Indians and Malays, saved for the two that were flanking the both sides of our house. We were the only Chinese families on the street. Until today, I still have no real answer why we moved to a place so far off and so very different from our previous home.
Feeling isolated aside, I did grow up with some happy memories. Most of the families there were young and there were plenty of other kids my age. Very quickly we bonded and played together – be it badminton over our fences and gates, football at the park or cycling around the neighbourhood. And when it came to festivals and celebrations, the place became very meriah (Malay for splendid or happening) to say the least. One of my more vivid memories were about the mid-autumn festival celebration. I remember as soon as the sun sets on the 15th evening of the of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, all the kids (irregardless of age, race or religion) would take to the streets with colourful lanterns and candles in tow. Our enthusiastic laughter and cheerful glee could be heard from miles away as we lit up the entire street in front of our houses, bright as the translucent lanterns in our hands. And when we peered back, we saw our parents catching up over cups of tea and sharing slices of mooncake under the luminescence sky. Sadly, all that stopped when we moved back to PJ. I guess kids here aren’t big on lanterns.
These days, the festival is marked by newfangled creations and an annual beauty pageant to see which bakery, restaurant or hotel could come up with the prettiest, smartest and most creatively-filled creations. Here are some of the mooncakes I’ve managed to moon over this year.
1. Golden Pheonix, Equatorial Hotel
These were the earliest mooncakes I’ve tasted this year thanks to the invitation by feedmelah.com on behalf of the hotel, we managed to dig into a myriad of interesting and daring creations like Red Yeast Sweet Potato, Bamboo Hazelnut, Charcoal Baked Yam, Espresso Chestnut, and Red Bean with Green Tea filling in place of an egg yolk. Some hits and mostly misses for me. Out of all the offerings, I like the German Blackforest the most, which is a dense chocolate filling with cherry inside a chocolate skin pastry. For something different in looks, the hotel also offers chocolate mooncakes and their signature Gold Ingots, which are lotus mooncakes dressed up in fluffy margarine pastry.
2. Restaurant Yook Tho Yin
Traditionalist will rejoice in this restaurant-bakery‘s offerings. Nothing fancy, just hearty lotus or red bean paste fillings with or without salted duck egg yolks, mixed fruits and nuts with an option of ham or not. You can choose the regular baked dough or white ping pei (snow skin) versions. They also make excellent Shanghai-styled mooncake with lotus paste and piglet biscuits which are also available in all sorts of other animal shapes and sizes. The last two items are only available closer to the actual mooncake festival. This year, it falls on September 22.
3. EEST, The Westin
Be enthralled by the fantasy-like collection of mini mooncakes, with equally beautiful names: Sassy Sweet (with smooth nutella chocolate mousse-like filling), Classic Beauty (fragrantly infused with honey, fig, mascarpone & pine nuts), Black Gold (liquorishly sweet almond skin, chicly painted with actual gold leaf and filled with black sesame), Ferrari Rocher (cherry lotus snow skin and hazelnut chocolate ganache much like a Ferrero Rocher) and the Durian Fantasy (the name says it all).
4. Li Yen, Ritz-Carlton
For me, the mid-autumn festival is not complete without relishing on a box of these elegant Moët et Chandon Mini Ping Pei mooncakes – which McCutie would lovingly pamper me with every year. The champagne flavour, which is subtle to be honest, isn’t the real draw for me. I’ve always appreciated them for the fine lotus filling with a small hint of melon seed and tiny bit of salted egg yolk, wrapped in the softest and most delicate snow skin around. Everything about these babies just oozes luxury. I would continue to rave and indulge in them until I come across something finer. Even the newly introduced limited edition Moët et Chandon Rosé Imperial Mini Ping Pei were no match for it. Long live its royal mooness!
Growing up, I’ve been thought to appreciate any food that comes my way. Appreciating good food on the other hand was something I picked up along the way. I’ve been lucky and blessed to be able to revel in many fine flavours in my life. Each exquisite meal is by itself a stripe earned on my tongue. This September, I’m looking forward to earning another one from Chef Alvin Leung, the mastermind behind the Two Michelin-starred restaurant Bo Innovation in Hong Kong. Hailed as Asian’s answer to Ferran Adrià, Chef Leung is known for his modern interpretations of Chinese cooking and his sometimes controversial approaches. Read all about it in his recent interview with The Star.
His visit to Malaysia, from 20th-25th September, is part of the Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows series, will see him cook up a storm within a “gastronomic pleasure dome” at the Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club. To book your place or for further information please call 603-2178 0230 or click http://www.hennessyxo.com.my/. Tickets sales per person is at RM800 (vegetarian menu is available).