Just weeks away from the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on September 21 of this year, the seasonal delight moon cake has already hit the shelves.
The impression most people have of traditional food is that it is stuffed with pork, sweet bean paste, lotus seed paste, or wuren, a five nut stuffing that includes peanuts and walnuts, which is considered by some to be a bit rich and heavy. The pork ones are also too fatty and the red bean paste is too sweet.
Forget it all. This year’s new flavors will surprise the most and shake up their impressions.
Shanghai’s revered restaurants breathe new life into unimaginably flavored moon cakes to tempt even the most discerning palates as well as the young.
At the 95-year-old Cantonese Sunya Restaurant in the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall, a cranberry cheesecake moon cake is this year’s latest offering.
Innovation comes from bold combinations. The chefs have adopted an approach of encounter between East and West in the making of stuffing.
Red beans are combined with cheese and cranberries in moon cakes.
“We tried many recipes for the best combination and ended up choosing red beans,” explained the restaurant’s executive chef Huang Renkang, who has worked in the restaurant industry for over 40 years.
“Cheese and cranberry are popular flavors among young people, and tests have been done over and over again to try to find the best proportion of ingredients,” he said.
“The fresh taste of red beans, provided by boiling, grinding and seasoning, pairs perfectly with the rich cheese and sweet and sour cranberry.”
After the success of last year, the new flavor of rattan pepper fish is retained this year.
Fish is very rarely used in moon cakes because of the bones, Huang explained.
“We use basa fish (a species of catfish) in our Rattan Pepper Fish Moon Cake because it has few bones and is tender,” he said.
Yu Linxia / BRILLIANCE
He said the spicy nature of the Rattan Pepper Fish Moon Cake has been toned down to make the taste lighter.
“Innovation is the soul of centuries-old restaurants and is the key to their survival,” said Huang. “Without catching up with the trend, any restaurant will be scrutinized.”
A restaurant success is yanduxian moon cake one wanghong (online celebrity) moon cake.
Yanduxien is a traditional Shanghai soup made from pork and bamboo shoots.
In previous years, people would arrive at midnight to queue, according to Huang.
“But all wanghong food has its life cycle, and you can’t rely on it all the time, “he said.” You have to keep innovating in the flavor and techniques of traditional cooking, that’s why this time around we launched the Cranberry Cheese Flavor. “
Sunya chefs also use French foie gras (goose or duck liver) in moon cakes.
New flavors are favored by young consumers.
“I came here to try the cheese paste because I love cheese, and I’m really looking forward to the taste of such a magical combination,” said young customer Iris Wu.
A customer by the name of Liu added, “The new yanduxian and the crab eggs are absolutely delicious and the flavors suit the taste buds of the people of Shanghai. “
Liu spent an hour on the road to Minhang District at a restaurant just to buy the yanduxian moon cakes.
According to an on-site vendor, while rattan pepper fish moon cakes are mostly welcomed by young people, some older customers also enjoy its distinctive spicy taste.
Sophisticated cooking techniques and timeless innovations are both essential in moon cakes.
To ensure the delicate color and delicate taste of coconut, purple copper pans and grated Southeast Asian coconut are used.
Sautéing the grated coconut slowly with condensed milk for an hour in a purple copper saucepan ensures the scent and mellow taste of coconut paste.
As for the sweet bean paste, traditional techniques and high-quality raw materials count. Under delicate procedures involving boiling, peeling and wringing, smooth textured bean paste was born.
Each year, the restaurant’s chefs adjust the sweet bean paste recipe to catch up with modern tastes while retaining the traditional flavor. This year, osmanthus coupled with lard and chenpi, or dried tangerine zest, list the new fillings inside the sweet bean paste.
Lotus seeds should be washed more than 10 times before going through the processes of boiling, pulping, crushing and shoveling. For lotus seed paste to “melt in your mouth”, it usually takes more than twice to crush and shovel the seeds.
When it comes to the restaurant’s bestsellers, the freshly baked pork moon cake comes first.
Each of the total 12 layers of the thin, crispy crust on the outside of the fresh meat moon cake is handcrafted by experienced chefs, who must accurately determine the ratio of flour, lard and water when kneading .
After repeatedly punched and hammered, the meatball will be wrapped in the dough. Moon cakes with fresh meat should first be baked at a high temperature for 15 minutes, then brushed with fresh egg, and finally put in the oven for 10 minutes.
Xing Hua Lou, founded in 1851, is one of Shanghai’s most famous Cantonese-style moon cake producers. It also features new moon cake flavors like creamy coconut jelly milk tea and brown sugar milk tea.
Cat’s paw-shaped cheesecake moon cake is flavored with coffee, caramel, dried coconut, and lotus paste.
It is designed to appeal to young female consumers who like cute things.
This year, Xing Hua Lou has partnered with Daoxiangcun, a centuries-old bakery dating back to 1773, and Swiss food giant Nestlé to develop several new flavors to promote traditional Chinese food culture and attract young consumers.
In cooperation with Nestlé, a coffee moon cake and a plant-based “meat” moon cake were launched.
It took nearly 100 days to develop the recipe for the former, creating an East meets West product, and the latter uses plant protein and natural plant ingredients in place of pork fat.
“Unlike pork fat, meat of plant origin is healthy, low in fat and cholesterol free, and its taste is similar to real pork fat,” said Zhi Jing, deputy general manager of Xing Hua. Lou.
Xu Ting, a 30-year-old consumer, added, “I like to drink coffee in everyday life and am interested in tasting the flavor of coffee. For me, traditional flavors such as pork stuffing are a bit oily while red bean paste is sweet. . “
Daoxiangcun’s Suzhou-style moon cake has 18 layers, each as thin as paper. Its moon cake making technique was inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of neighboring Jiangsu Province in 2009.
The Cantonese-style approach to meet Suzhou features flavors such as ginkgo, jujube paste, egg yolk, and lotus seed paste.
“This is a bold approach and it is the first time that Cantonese and Suzhou-style moon cakes have been ‘mixed’ in one gift box,” said Huang Qiong, a staff member of Daoxiangcun.
Lu Jun, Marketing Manager at Xing Hua Lou, added, “All of these efforts are aimed at satisfying the tastes of young consumers. Our survey found that young consumers between the ages of 20 and 30 particularly like the flavor of cheese.
Other age-old restaurants don’t lag behind when it comes to innovation and never fall out of favor.
De Xing Guan, a restaurant founded in 1878, launched two new flavors – candied pork with green pepper and crispy durian paste – for this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival.
“The technique involved is equivalent to cooking a dish,” said Wang Xiang, chef of the restaurant. “Green peppers are dried, ground into a powder and then made into pepper juice and added to the meat paste.
“While stirring, a certain proportion of green pepper oil should be added continuously, and the sausage is diced and added to enrich the flavor.
“Shanghainese traditionally love the sweet flavor, but not so sweet, so we have to strictly control the level of sweetness of moon cakes.”