Today is the 15th day of the eight month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which makes today – officially - the Mid-Autumn Festival (???). I know it is hard to keep track when the day is actually celebrated, given how early mooncakes of many different varieties are sold as early as July each year. Ironically, this festival is one of the few most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, other than Chinese New Year and the Winter Solstice Festival.
Traditionally on this day, Chinese families will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn moon and indulge in a giant feast as they mark the end of the fall harvesting season. The moon on this night, which parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, is said to be the most exquisite as the moon is at its roundest and fullest.
Food writer S.C. Moey wrote in her book, Chinese Feasts & Festivals (Periplus), ”Before scientific exploration scaled the heavens and disappointed romantics with some of its discoveries, the moon enjoyed more esoteric connotation – it was the domain of a goddess, a playground for fairies, and the embodiment of all that was feminine. For a greater part of the last millennia, it was inconceivable that the moon was just a space rock.”
In the last 4 years of this blog’s existence, I’ve never failed to let a year go by without writing a post featuring mini snow skin mooncakes from The Ritz-Carlton KL’s Li Yen’s. This goes to show how big of a fan I’ve been of the delightful Moët & Chandon Champagne Mini Ping Pei - a signature creation by the hotel, which is sold exclusively during this time of year. Over the years, they have also introduced new flavours but this still remains as my ultimate variety when it comes to moon cake. I just cannot sing enough of its praises.
This year, the hotel’s Dim Sum Chef Tan Tiong Guan and his culinary team have once again challenged themselves and introduced two more new flavours along with last year’s favourite, the Moët et Chandon Rosé Imperial Mini Ping Pei. The 2011′s collection sees the introduction of bolder ingredients and flavours. The combination of Wasabi and White Lotus may sound scary and raise an eyebrow or two, but I am pleasantly surprise to find it subtle and dare I say lovely(?).
On the opposite end of the scale is the Green Tea Ping Pei with Custard and Salted Egg filling. This odd pairing sent me searching for greener pastures as the soft and pillowy snow skin resembles one that is made of black sesame. I was quickly corrected by our host that roasted green tea leaves are hardly green to the eye. The filling was very interesting and funky at the same time. But nevertheless, I enjoyed it more after the first few bites. I supposed you can’t really go wrong with anything that has salted egg yolk in them, right?
Li Yen, is Ritz-Carlton KL’s award-winning Cantonese restaurant is also one of my favourite spots for dim sum in the city. A few baskets of steamed dumplings and buns here would easily make my day, especially after a morning screaming at misbehaving contractors. Nothing like the pleasures and comfort of dim sum to calm a monkey down.
Special thanks to the handsome Englishman, Ollie, for inviting me over for lunch, which was also a great chance to catch up with celebrity bloggers like KY Speaks, Fatboybakes and The NomadGourmand. I hope you get hold of the Angry Bird lantern you wanted *chuckles*
And, happy moon cake festival to all of you!
The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur
168, Jalan Imbi,
55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603-2142 8000