Mooncake, the beautiful Chinese confection that has been indispensably associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival for over 1000 years, is really more than just a traditional sweet. From purportedly playing a vital part in the overthrowing of the Mongols by the Ming insurgents in 1368 to conveying sentiments of value and respect to elders and business partners today, these treasured treats have come a long way into the heart of Chinese culture and heritage. In fact, the festival is more widely known as the Mooncake Festival today.
I remember a time in Singapore when the 15th day of the 8th lunar month was marked by only one type of pastry - the traditional baked skin mooncake with lotus paste and salted egg yolk. Younger relatives would present a simple box of 4 mooncakes as a mark of respect for my parents and for us children, we would receive 'piglet biscuits', a pretty but horribly dry treat made from unused mooncake pastry.
Some thirty-five years later, there are now countless varieties of mooncakes, from the traditionally baked ones with a whole myriad of innovative fillings like red bean paste and nuts and ham, to the highly popular 'snow skin' ones crafted from glutinous rice flour and endowed with outrageous flavours ranging from durian to champagne and cocktail truffles.
A multi-million dollars industry has thus been established to cater to extremely high demands based on a traditional sentiment. Today, countless hotels and restaurants produce beautifully packaged moon cake gift boxes in Singapore roughly a month before the festival. Sampling over 40 flavours of snow skin mooncakes, here are our recommendations from 9 of the Singapore's most prominent luxury hotels.
Two snow skin delights from Wan Hao Chinese Resaurant
1. Wan Hao, Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel
Creating unique tastes seems to be the mission statement of executive chef Brian Wong and his mooncake line up for Wan Hao's snow skin flavours this year include tangy mango yoghurt, zesty lime margarita truffle and crunchy mocha chocolate royaltine. My personal favourite is more conventional - the green tea snow skin with Japanese red bean.
2. Yan Ting, St Regis Singapore
Encased within a royally yellow box with an LED lighted crystal pad are 4 unique new flavours created in collaboration with award winning San Francisco pâtissier Melissa Chou. Of these 4 finely balanced ensembles including red date wolf berry paste and jasmine tea paste, my vote goes to the black sesame paste with salted peanut truffle.
3. Jiang Nan Chun, 4 Seasons Hotel Singapore
These bite size dainties from Jiang Nan Chun may be small but they pack a punch with their intense flavours. The hazelnut royaltine with milk tea snow skin is a mooncake version of the hotel's famous cake while the bird's nest custard is an exquisite blue treat harbouring a luxurious bird's nest core.
4. Summer Palace, Regent Singapore
This year, the Regent Singapore has introduced 2 cocktail infused snow skin moon cakes designed by its own award-winning Manhattan Bar. One comes with a barrel-aged La Louisiane cocktail core with yuzu and green bean paste and the other is the barrel-aged Sazerac 6-year-old rye with coffee and chocolate. Both intoxicatingly good.
5. The Fullerton Hotel Singapore
An iconic hotel raised within a historic building, the Fullerton Hotel's snow skin mooncakes have 2 distinctly Singaporean flavours this year - 'Milo Dinosaur' (a popular local drink) and pandan with gula melaka (palm sugar). I am however more won over by the refreshing taste of the yuzu with chia seeds.
6. Li Bai, Sheraton Hotel Singapore
Known for its understated but refined cuisine, Li Bai surprises with a rather bold creation in its snow skin line-up this year. Standing out from milder flavours like lemon with lemongrass and lychee martini is the dangerously delicious black truffle sea salt dark chocolate with white lotus seed paste, one of our top favourite from this year's melange.
7. Hai Tian Lo, Pan Pacific Singapore
Pan Pacific's snow skin collection this year is completely anchored by fruits with 2 durian flavours, cempedak (a Southeast Asian fruit) and lychee with soursop. Biting into the Mao Shan Wang durian moon cake will be heaven for lovers of the pungent fruit. Those electing less punch can opt for the lighter durian with gula melaka.
8. Mandarin Orchard Singapore
Alcohol infusion is a popular flavour for snow skin moon cakes and Mandarin Orchard has tapped into this trend with its signature lychee martini and red wine cranberry with Japanese yuzu and lemongrass flavours. While the former packs a punch with its liquor infused core, the latter exhibits greater complexity with notes of citrus and herb coming through prominently.
9. Raffles Hotel Singapore
Raffles Hotel's snow skin mooncakes are almost as famous as the iconic hotel and sales orders for its signature champagne truffle mooncakes are said to be well into the 6 digits per year. A new flavour introduced this year is the acai berry and chia seeds moon cake, which is purportedly packed with anti-oxidants.
10. Grand Hyatt Hotel Singapore
Grand Hyatt Singapore's snow skin moon cakes are renowned for their looks and tastes. With a total of 9 flavours including 4 new ones like acai berry truffle, Teh Tarik (local drink) with chocolate truffle, green apple and basil with Trigona honey truffle and black sesame with walnut truffle, we are in love not just with the sheer variety but also with the richly alcoholic truffles that hide in so many of these modishly colourful confections.
Next review - Traditional baked moon cake from 12 of Singapore best brands.