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  

 

 

 

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38 thoughts on “The Singaporean Hainanese Moon Cake – 酥盐月饼

  1. Thanks, finally a history into my fav mooncake. Used to be able to buy it around Beach rd, many years ago, sadly have not been able to find it anymore. Has anyone been able to replicate it correctly and still selling it in S’pore?

    1. Actually still can. My grand uncle sells it every year at Purvis Street Killiney Kopitiam, mostly in the afternoons. $15 for one tube with 8. Frankly its not as good as the ones our family was making when I grew up, but I think the standard is still there. Also, mostly because a lot of ingredients are not as good anymore and some are even hard to find, like the wild dried small tangerine and rose-flavoured sugar. My dad complains that even the sesame is not as fragrant as it used to be.. lol.

      1. Thanks again, unfortunately when I rush down yesterday, it was one day too late, a lady said the uncle had already sold-out.

        Btw, I also googled a shop at takashimaya basement http://www.amethystpastry.com/products_mc2011.html, they call it ‘Hainanese pepper salt crispy mooncake’ which sadly also sold-out since last week. Have you tried their version to see how it compares?

        I guess next year, I better make sure I buy them a month in advance 😉

      2. Kelvin,

        Thanks for sharing this. My wife and I are Hainanese, and every year, we have to have our fix of Nam Hong Li Hainanese mooncake.

        My wife agrees that the quality of the mooncake is not as good as before. It does not seem to have as much melon seed, which gives it the crunchiness.

        Does your dad have plan to revive the confectionery?

      3. Ok everyone, for our yearly hainanese mooncake fix, do keep a lookout and help each other by leaving a update here.

  2. Hello Kelvin! Do you know if these will be at Killiney this year? I really miss your dads one. We had them every year till he closed and we make do now with your grand uncles.

  3. Hi, may I ask where else can we buy hainanese mooncake in singapore? My family used to buy hainanese mooncake from your family pastry & we have not been able to find anything similar in taste & quality since it closed.
    Thanks.

    1. I cannot comment on the attempts by other folks, but I know someone shops selling this in Takashimaya basement during the moon cake festival. Also my grand uncle would sell this at Killiney kopitiam at Purvis Street, but standard can vary but last year it was not too bad. They only make a few batches by they way

  4. Hi, let me introduce myself. My name is Suan. This Toa Payoh lady is my mum and she is a daughter of my late grandma from Nam Tong Lee.

      1. Yup. Nice to hear from you. After gathering all the feedback on Nam Tong Lee, we have decided to make this Hainanese moon cake this year. Perhaps you should drop us a visit.

    1. Hello Suan,
      I am Tong Kwan daughter. Haha.
      We collected it yesterday and our family were very Happy with it.
      😄

      1. Hi, nice meeting you. Glad that your family is enjoying it.
        Thank you for you support.

      1. Hi Sanadee,

        Sorry for replying late. At the moment, we have limited stock left. Perhaps you can tell me how many boxes do you intend to buy so I can do so planning to it.

        Thank you for your interests..

    2. Hi Suan, would dearly like to buy the hainanese mooncake from your mum if its still possible. Have been looking for them for a long time. My parents only like to eat them.

      1. Hi Michelle,

        Sorry for replying late. At the moment, we have limited stock left. Perhaps you can tell me how many boxes do you intend to buy so I can do so planning to it. You can also whatsapp me.

        Thank you for your interests..

        Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  5. Hi Suan …. firstly I must thank Mr Google 😊 ….. (finally found your address ) , thanks to you & your mom for making this traditional mooncake . I love it & the taste soooo good 👍👍

  6. Hi Suan,

    Im really glad I found your post. I have always loved the hainanese mooncake since young. Was wondering if i can get the recipe from you. Really looking forward to your reply.

    Boh3 gai2 lit4 🙂

      1. Hi Suan,

        Thank you for your reply. Totally understand why recipe cant be disclosed. Am I still in time to order some from you?

      1. Hi Wen Yi,
        I am so sorry that I couldn’t pick up your call as I was held up by some family matters.
        Tentatively we only bake it during the festival season. We will start baking in August for this coming mid autumn festival.
        Perhaps you want to message me yiur number.
        Thank you

        Regards
        Suan

      2. Hi Wen Yi,
        I am so sorry that I couldn’t pick up your call as I was held up by some family matters.
        Tentatively we only bake it during the festival season. We will start baking in August for this coming mid autumn festival.
        Perhaps you want to message me your number.
        Thank you

        Regards
        Suan

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