The traditional Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival falls on 08th September this year and it is one of my favourite pseudo-holidays as it gives me an opportunity to enjoy one of my favourite sweets: mooncakes.
Known in Chinese as yuè bĭng, the standard-issue mooncake features a sweet, rich, thick, almost fudge-like filling usually made with lotus seed paste (lían róng), red mung bean [adzuki] paste (dòu shā) or mixed nuts (wǔ rén) encased in a chewy pastry that bakes to a rather bronzed sheen. Of course, seeing how the crust on a standard-issue mooncake is loaded with lard and brushed with beaten eggs before baking, they can be very calorific.
Health consciousness on the part of the people of Hong Kong in the late 1990s led to the development of a new crust for mooncakes: one that was not as fattening as the original but would be every bit as delectable. The new crusts were made with glutinous rice dough – similar to Japanese mochi – that were pressed into traditional moulds, filled with classic fillings or more outre ones such as chocolate ganache or durian paste, and frozen till firm. These are known today as snowskin mooncakes.
For this season, local Oriental bakery Eng Bee Tin (of the famed custard hopia) is offering lotus-filled snowskin mooncakes with rose petals as a treat.
Each of these snowskin beauties (P 160.00 apiece / US$ 3.68) is prettily speckled with faintly pink bits of dried rose. But these confections are anything but dainty, seeing how these are loaded with lusciously thick and creamy lotus paste and hold a fairly large salted duck egg yolk in the centre.
While best served cold, these are just as delicious when served at room temperature. The taste of the rose petals is very subtle and does not distract the eater from the delightful lotus and salted duck egg at the heart of the cake. There is none of the toasty character of traditional baked mooncakes, but this kind of cake is just as wonderful and has the added virtue of not sitting so heavily in your belly afterwards. Definitely worth buying again in my book. :D
As with traditional mooncakes, these are great for sharing with friends in the spirit of camaraderie and the hope of bringing sweetness into an increasingly disconcerting and embittered world.