September 6, 2014

Mooncake tasting with mom

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It's customary for me to bring home a haul of mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival.  For a few years I was buying them from Lung Hing Heen (龍景軒) at the Four Seasons Hong Kong, simply because Last Minute Uncle liked their distinctive fragrance.

But last year, mom did a side-by-side comparison of Lung King Heen's white lotus seed paste mooncake with double salted egg yolk (酥皮雙黄白蓮蓉月餅) with the very old school lotus seed paste mooncake with double salted egg yolk (雙黄蓮蓉月餅) from Wing Wah (榮華) - the kind of mooncakes I used to have 30 or 40 years ago when I was growing up.  Believe it or not, the Wing Wah mooncake won hands down.  Not only did it have a richer, denser lotus seed paste, the duck egg yolk inside was still soft with visible oil - while the yolk in the Lung King Heen version was dry and had visible clumps.  That was a revelation.

For the first time in quite a few years, I chose not to order any mooncakes from Lung King Heen... especially now that the Four Seasons Hong Kong has decided to do what the Peninsula has done for a number of years - offering mass-produced, hotel- and not restaurant-branded mooncakes.  I decided to try something new.

A while ago I heard that Dashijie (大師姐) had made some traditional mooncakes with lard.  I got kinda excited, because this was the type of old school stuff that mom would like.  So I got online and ordered some... In retrospect I probably should have asked Dashijie about her mooncakes at dinner a few days ago...

Last week I learned from mom that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Last Minute Uncle is now a fan of Peninsula's mini egg custard mooncakes (迷你奶黃月餅) that people have been going crazy over.  I myself am not a fan of these, and try my damnedest to stay away from them.  But Last Minute Uncle is someone I need to keep happy, so I quickly placed an order with Mara Js Pâtisserie since I tasted them not too long ago...

I dutifully hand-carried them back to Taipei this morning, and immediately went about tasting them with mom after lunch...

Mom showed me this sorry ass-looking lotus seed paste and egg yolk mooncake (蓮蓉蛋黃) from Humble House (寒舍) in Taipei.  I didn't even have to bite into it to know that it sucked.  The lotus seed paste didn't taste like much except that it was sweet, and the whole thing was oily.  Looking at the yolk I had to wonder what kind of bird it came from... I think even quail eggs have bigger yolks.

I can certainly understand why mom hasn't even bothered to open up any of the other 5 mooncakes in the box...

Next up was the egg custard mooncake (上等奶黃月餅) from Mara Js, which we nuked in the microwave for about 10 seconds.
Mom liked the flavors, especially the fact that there was actual yolk in the filling.  But she felt that the filling should have been denser and more compact, as it was pretty easy for this to crumble and fall apart.  This was her favorite of the bunch.

For me the main event was always gonna be the traditional yellow lotus seed paste mooncake with double egg yolk (傳統雙黃欖仁蓮蓉月) from Dashijie (大師姐), which I thought would be the one made with lard.  But I was mistaken.  The ones which were made with lard were apparently from a special batch that wasn't for sale, and lard certainly wasn't listed as one of the ingredients for this.  We nuked this for about 20 seconds as instructed.

Well, I thought this was pretty good.  The yolk was still kinda moist, the lotus seed paste was tasty, and I especially liked the Indian almonds (欖仁).  For mom, this was decent but she found the lotus seed paste a little on the fluffy side.  At least we could see a little oil ooze out onto the plate.

Finally we come to the dried jujube paste mooncake with walnut (南棗琥珀合桃月餅), also from Dashijie.  Growing up with Shanghainese roots, I naturally gravitate towards things made with dried jujube paste.

It should surprise no one that mom has pretty standards, and this was her least favorite of the ones I brought home.  She noticed that the jujube paste wasn't exactly gleaming, which indicated that the paste wasn't really rich.  Sure enough, we found red bean paste listed as an ingredient in the dried jujube paste, so the flavors weren't pure.  You just can't beat an old hand with experience...

Well, I guess that was it for this year.  I'll figure out which new ones I'll buy next year and look forward to another tasting with mom.

P.S.  Mom wanted to try to recapture some childhood memories so dad picked up the desiccated coconut and lotus seed mooncake (椰絲蓮子月餅) from Kee Wah Bakery (奇華餅家).  This was a FAIL.  The whole thing was dried out.  Yes, there was some desiccated coconut, but the dominant flavor was actually... pineapple?!  I quick look at the list of ingredients showed why... One of the main ingredients besides lotus seeds and coconut was "pineapple paste" - i.e. the same stuff one finds in the famous Taiwanese pineapple cakes (鳳梨酥)... which in this case was made with winter melon, radish purée and pineapple, among others.  I had absolutely no desire to take in another bite beyond the 1/6 that I grabbed.

P.P.S.  After the third taste in four days, mom decided that the traditional yellow lotus seed paste mooncake with double egg yolk (傳統雙黃欖仁蓮蓉月) from Dashijie (大師姐) was pretty good after all.  After having had more time to appreciate it, she's decided that this is something she would desire to eat again.

1 comment:

Water Moon said...

I never like moon cake but I have to say 恆利月餅 is the best I'd ever had.
Also 奶皇月餅 from 天寶閣 is also ok.
I have no clue why people will pay $498 for crapy mooncake..

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