The Singaporean Hainanese Moon Cake – 酥盐月饼

Like many of the Hainanese-styled food that you will find in Singapore, like Hainanese pork chops, chicken curry and beef stew, the Hainanese moon cake that some of the older Hainanese generation are familiar with cannot be found in Hainan Island.

My dad and his family used to run the only confectionery in Singapore that sells Hainanese moon cake in Purvis Street. Hainanese of his generation and maybe even mine would have grown up eating this even Moon Cake Festival or giving them as gifts to relatives.

Side note: For the younger generation of Hainanese: Middle Road, Purvis Street and Seah Street used to called Hainan Street 1, 2 and 3. Sometimes, you may still here the older generations calling them by those names and some taxi driver too still recognize them by those names. Those streets are, of course, where a lot of Hainanese used to stay and grew up in. The Hainanese character is almost gone now, except with a few chicken rice and Hainanese food stalls.

From what my dad told me, the Hainanese moon cake is actually not a real moon cake (duh!!) and also not known in Hainan Island. It was actually adapted from a similar biscuit found probably in Shanghai or its parts called 酥饼 or flaky biscuit. He is not sure when our family started selling it, but he thought that it was probably started from his grandparents generation. You see, as the Hainanese were relatively poor at that time, they could not afford to buy the typical sugar loaded lotus and salted egg moon cakes and being a Hainanese confectionery family, we had to sell something that Hainanese could buy and voila!

Whatever happened, this sure became synonymous with Singaporean Hainanese during moon cake festival since.

Alas, its sad that due to family conflicts, back biting, stabbing and all sorts of melodrama with the family (as with any big families sometimes), the family tradition could not continue and the confectionery has to close.

What is unique (and what I liked) about the Hainanese moon cake is that it is blend of umami from fried onions and pork lard, slightly sweet and salty, a little spicy with pepper and an uplifting tanginess. This just a beautiful blend of flavors when the balance of ingredients are there. That is why, it was very hard to duplicate this if you don’t have the exact recipe and proportions, as I have seen people attempting to do it before.

The main ingredients are sesame seeds with some melon seeds, this is vastly different from the traditional moon cake made with loads of sugar and lotus paste. In a sense, I could say that its healthier, but not necessarily less fattening!

Into the fillings goes grounded white pepper to give it its spiciness; rose flavored fine sugar, to give it the sweetness and additional fragrance; a bit of salt; and finally, what I feel is most important, dried tangerine skin peel. My dad says that traditionally, they got what is called 山桔 from some parts of China. These are wild tangerines that are dried up and very hard. He told me that it is a very tedious process to grind up the tangerine skin as it is very hard, but it gives a really wonderful tanginess and fragrance. Its hard to find that now and the substitute ones (and cheaper ones from Malaysia or even China) are not as fragrant or tangy anymore.

As for the skin, its nothing more than flour, water, a bit of salt and pork lard. But skills come to play on how to fold it to up the flakiness of the skin. Also the skin must be thin enough. I have tried some duplicate one where the skin is just too thick and everything is tasteless. Mind you, because the skin has pork lard, it can be pretty oily on the surface.

I will hope to dig out the exact recipe from my dad, but I think it more depends on experience and skills to get it right than just the recipe. Also I am not afraid of people getting the recipe, the more people know it, the more this moon cake will stay, even if the younger generation may not appreciate it anymore.

There you go… for those who have no idea what a Hainanese moon cake is and those who have eaten Hainanese moon cake and not sure what its all about.

Update: My cousin, Suan is keeping the tradition alive and making and selling the mooncake. If you are interested, please contact him suanchong2896@gmail.com

Also they have a small video feature his mom and the mooncake  

 

 

 

Taiwan Street Food – 黑糖珍珠撞奶 (Black sugar syrup soaked pearls in milk)

This is a drink that I only recently discovered in Taiwan as I had never really been a fan of the pearl (珍珠) in the Taiwanese bubble milk tea, usually opting out the pearls.  I think this new mixture probably only came about 1 – 2 years ago. Also judging by its popularity amongst the youngster, it should be a relatively new thing, until something else takes over! lolz

The drink is very simple, soak a bunch of tapioca balls in black sugar syrup and serve it with full cream milk. Simple, but heavenly!

The pearls are piping hot at the bottom of the cup (in the picture above I could only hold that cup for a few seconds!) and the cold milk is poured on top. Stir them together and you get a drink that has both the fragrance of milk and black sugar (and its sweetness), plus a chewy tidbit. Because the pearls are soaked in the sugar, they are not tasteless and are nice to chew on. To make a good cup, I think, depends on the quality of the pearl and the milk. Black sugar tastes don’t change too much, in general.

In the picture above is a popular shop at 公馆 (Gong Guan) station where there is tiny night market street. This is a bit early, but if you go there around dinner time, the customers will pack the street. Actually, I thought that another (smaller) store selling a similar drink just behind me (where this photo is taken) seem to have a better milk to go with it. But both is worth a try.

Taiwan Street Food – 大肠包小肠 (Small sausage wrapped by big sauage)

This picture may look suggestive, but its one of my favorite must eat food when in Taipei. It is a relative simply concept. A small sausage, which is your typical sweet Taiwanese sausage, is placed on a large glutinous rice filled sausage. In between these two various other flavors and ingredients like garlic, onions, radish, etc are added. You can have Japanese, Korean, Thai, Satay flavored toppings, including many I would not know what they are made of! In itself, I think we can say that is a complete meal with meat, vegetables and rice!

What makes this delicious is the toppings and most important how the small sausage is roasted. A lot of care is taken to roast the sausage so that its crispy on the outside and very fragrant. One of my favorite sausage is the wild boar meat (山猪).

This stall at Ximen is very popular and I love to eat the small sausage just by itself. Its in one of back lane where the Ximen multi-storey carpark is, just below the Toilet Cafe

Taiwan Street Food – 胡椒饼(literally pepper biscuit)

If one of the snacks I often like to try when I Taipei is their 胡椒饼. This is a Chinese-style biscuit baked in a hot oven filled with meat (mostly pork) seasoned with pepper and other stuff. Best when served hot from the oven, but mind you it is very very hot inside. I remembered once I bought a beef version and passed it to my friend to try, forgetting to warn him. He took one bite of it, screamed out loud and promptly threw the snack onto the floor! How embarrassing.. haha.

This stall is a popular store at the junction of  重庆南路一段 and 开封街一段. It is just opposite See You Hotel, quite Mitsukoshi where the exit of the Taipei Main Train station is.