Saturday, September 29, 2007


If you’ve traveled to any Chinatown around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival, you’ve probably tried a mooncake - a roundish, golden brown pastry filled with red-bean or lotus paste, plus occasionally a single or double egg yolk. In the US, we ate them every fall, learning each other’s preferences: I tend to avoid the salty egg yolks, and Jenn can’t quite talk herself into enjoying red-bean paste (though we both like the lotus). We knew exactly which kinds of mooncakes we liked...or so we thought.

But in Singapore, mooncakes have been liberated, and there are countless variations to choose from. In addition to red bean and lotus, flavors now include green tea (horrible), peanut (not bad), and durian (surprisingly good). Mooncakes have even broken through the typical barrier between traditional Asian dessert flavors and Western tastes. In what appears to be a mooncake arms race among the high-end hotels, some have abandoned beans and durian to embrace chamapagne truffle fillings, custards with “chocolate pearls,” and blueberry cream cheese.

Even the outside varies. The Shanghai style has a crumbly crust more like a biscuit, often with nuts embedded. And we’ve seen many mooncakes made with “snowskin” pastry, pure white and softer than the standard crust. Perhaps it’s meant to appeal to the masses of Singaporeans forever striving to whiten their skin. In my humble culinary opinion, it takes like a slightly soggy, half-baked traditional mooncake crust. Jenn, on the other hand, thinks it’s perfect for the sweeter fillings.

With so much variety, there’s no accounting for taste!

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