The Mid-Autumn festival has been observed since the early Tang dynasty (618 – 907), with the cakes themselves believing to have originated in the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) when revolutionaries used them to pass secret messages to each other.
In China, Mid-Autumn festival is a public holiday where families get together to enjoy grand lantern processions, moongazing and a sumptuous feast. In places like Hong Kong, carnivals and lantern displays, as well as the Fire Dragon Dance, are held in public spaces like Victoria Park.
Here in Singapore, while places like Chinatown and Gardens by the Bay are decked out with colourful lanterns for all to enjoy, it is the variety of mooncakes that most choose to celebrate with. Traditional mooncakes are often made with lotus seed paste and salted egg yolks, but today, there is a mind boggling variety. Here are some of the very best to share with your family on the 24 September.
1. For old-school, flaky pastry: Thye Moh Chan
Thye Moh Chan, the 75-year-old Teochew confectionery has rolled out a collection of handcrafted mooncakes with a unique and memorable light flaky pastry. Like the brand’s signature tau sar piah, these seasonal items are hand-crafted the traditional way, using high quality ingredients such as meticulously prepared smooth mung bean filling.
The mooncakes feature a mix of savoury and sweet fillings, such as favourites like the Salty Tau Sar with Salted Egg Yolk ($38.80) and Sweet Tau Sar with Melon Seeds ($38.80). The brand has also introduced a new flavour – Red Bean Mochi with Salted Egg Yolk ($38.80). The pastry is woven with sweet Taiwanese red beans and soft chewy mochi, and balanced with salted egg yolk and melon seeds. Those who are more adventurous can zero in on the limited-edition Mao Shan Wang Durian with smooth durian-infused mung bean paste ($43.80). The mooncakes come in pretty pastel packaging with peony flower motifs.
Chinatown Point, #01-45/46, Paragon #B1-11/12, Changi Airport Terminal 2 (Level 2, Departure Lounge)
2. For luxury with a healthy twist: Shangri-La Hotel
This year, Shang Palace has created Hong Kong style baked custard mooncakes filled with delicate bird’s nest. The hand-crafted treats are rich and creamy, yet not overwhelmingly sweet. Shang Palace’s Executive Chinese Chef Mok Kit Keung who was previously at the helm of the two Michelin-starred Shang Palace at Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong, created these Signature Mini Baked Custard with Bird’s Nest for Singapore’s market for the first time. These golden gems come in elegant champagne gold “treasure chests” with intricate designs. They are available in a box of eight pieces at $118, and perfect for gifting.
3. For durian lovers: Goodwood Park Hotel
Durian lovers will enjoy Goodwood Park’s popular D24 and ‘Mao Shan Wang’ snowskin mooncakes. These soft snowksin mooncakes are freshly made using pure durian pulp without any preservatives.
The premium Mao Shan Wang Durian Mooncakes are $88 for four pieces and $56 for two, and the luscious D24 Durian Mooncakes are $56 for 2 pieces and $88 for four. Great for gifting is the Snowskin Combo ($62 for four pieces) featuring tropical fruit-based mooncakes: Soursop with Calamansi, Mango with Pomelo, Cempedak and D24 Durian.
4. For snowskin mooncake fans: Fairmont Singapore
Fairmont Singapore is most known for its handmade mooncakes featuring soft delicate snowskin, and unique flavours, sometimes infused with alcohol.
Two of its best-sellers include the Mini Champagne Truffle & Chocolate Ganache snowskin mooncake ($70 for eight), and the snow-pearl edition of Mini Rum & Raisin with Chocolate Truffle ($68 for eight). This year, the dim sum team also unveiled their new Mini Salted Egg Caramel mooncakes ($68 for eight). The delicate rose-hued treat with a dark chocolate praline in the centre is well-balanced with a touch of saltiness.
5. For bite-sized options: Simple Indulgence Patisserie
This small boutique bakery offers handcrafted petite-sized snowskin mooncakes using only natural ingredients – from the various flavour pairings to the delicate snowskin made with a special house blend flour.
For example, fresh raspberries are used to tinge the snowskin of the Black Sesame Raspberry Truffle treat. Other sublime flavours include the Japanese Yuzu Truffle – yuzu is infused into the snowskin, and paired with low sugar white lotus paste. The centerpiece is a white chocolate truffle filled with yuzu white chocolate. For a local touch, try the blue-hued Butterfly Pea Gula Melaka made with low sugar Gula Melaka lotus paste and a dark chocolate truffle filled with white chocolate coconut ganache. Prices start from $34.
6. For a traditional throwback: Old Seng Choong
This year, heritage brand Old Seng Choong presents seven traditional mooncakes. New this season are three traditional baked flavours: White Lotus Paste with Durian Paste ($66.80); White Lotus with Yolk Blend and Mixed Seeds (pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and melon seeds ($66.80)); and Longan with Wugu ($66.80) whose filling is made with pure dried longan paste, dried longan and ‘wugu’ – a mix of five different seeds and berries. Top pastry chef Daniel Tay has also experimented with various ingredients such as dark chocolate, liquors, seeds, nuts, as well as durian, longan, yuzu and cherries.
7. For something different: Yàn
For a flaky, crisp pastry that you won’t find in many places in Singapore, try Yan’s Thousand Layer Yam mooncakes, inspired by the Teochew style of mooncakes. In layers of crispy, light, golden pastry, the sweet yam filling is aromatic and pleasant, a perfect balance. Yàn’s mooncakes are available in boxes of four pieces (from $62); the version with single yolk embedded within is $64. Order them one day in advance.