Discover legendary handmade mooncakes by Chef Chong Kei

Mooncake © Adrian Cheah

Celebrated by the Chinese on the 15th day of the eighth lunar moon (between late September to October), the Mooncake Festival commemorates the overthrow of the Mongols, when the insurgent leaders, by way of smuggling secret messages in mooncakes, called the people to revolt.

The other version about this festival has its protagonist as a beautiful woman known as Chang-Er who sacrificed herself in order to prevent her husband from becoming an immortal tyrant, an act which spared her people from great suffering. And as legend has it, Chang Er became an immortal herself, floated to the moon and is now worshipped as the Moon Goddess.

Devotees of the Moon Goddess make offerings to her at the altar during the festival and mooncakes are the season’s delicacies. Shaped like the moon, hence its name, mooncakes vary from red bean paste or “tau sar” to lotus paste or “lin yung” to mixed nuts to more contemporary creations made with durian, yam, pandan and even tea flavoured ones. It is not uncommon to find Chinese friends and relatives exchanging mooncakes as gifts during the festival. For many Penangites, it is another excuse to feast on one of the many delightful seasonal Malaysian delicacies.

Mooncake © Adrian Cheah

Indeed, it has been an open secret that some of the best mooncakes in Penang can be found at the Shang Palace restaurant in Shangri-La Hotel, Penang.

Available in a grand selection of flavours at its speciality stall, the taste and texture of Shang Palace’s mooncakes have garnered its own legion of loyal customers who attribute freshness and fine ingredients as the magical combination and the difference in every gratifying bite.

And for the first time ever, the Shang Palace has opened its kitchen doors to unveil the secret of handmade mooncakes – courtesy of Masterchef Chong Kei who is the virtuoso behind every sumptuous mooncake creation on sale.

Mooncake © Adrian Cheah

Basic mooncake dough recipe


Ingredients

  • I kg red rose flour
  • 1.3 kg mooncake syrup
  • I clay spoonful lye water
  • 250 ml peanut oil

Method

  • Place syrup, lye water and oil in a dough mixer.
  • Mix at a low speed, adding flour by the handfuls in the beginning and the rest of the flour towards the end.
  • Mix until the dough leaves the side of the mixer.
  • Do not mix for too long.
  • Remove dough and rest the dough for at least 2 hours.

Lotus mooncake recipe


Mooncake © Adrian Cheah

Mooncake © Adrian Cheah

Ingredients

  • 22 gm mooncake dough
  • 160 gm lotus paste
  • I pc salted egg yolk
  • melon seeds as required

Method

  • Mix in 80 gm of for every 6 kg of paste.
  • Flatten the mooncake dough slightly and place the lotus paste ball into the centre.
  • Cover the filling with the dough and press into the desired wooden mould.
  • Spray with eggwash and bake in a pre-heated oven of 145°C for 30 minutes.

Mooncake cookie dough recipe


Mooncake © Adrian Cheah

Ingredient

  • I kg red rose flour
  • I kg mooncake syrup
  • I clay spoonful lye water
  • 300 ml peanut oil

Method

  • Proceed with recipe as for mooncake dough.
  • Rest the dough for at least 4 hours.
  • Line baking trays with silicon paper.
  • Spoon dough onto silicon paper and brush with eggwash.
  • Bake at 145°C for 25 minutes.

Non-baked mooncake recipe


mooncake

Ingredients

  • 375 gm Koh Hoon flour
  • 500 gm castor sugar
  • 37.5 gm shortening
  • 300 gm mineral water
  • Colouring (optional)

Method

  • Mix Koh Hoon flour and sugar by hand in a mixing bowl
  • Add in shortening
  • Add water with colouring (optional)
  • Add filling and press into mould
  • Keep chilled

Chef Chong Kei – Shang Palace Mooncake Chef

Mooncake © Adrian Cheah

Chef Chong Kei has been mastering and honing his skill in the art of preparing dim sum for the past 25 years. Prior to coming to Penang, he was the dim sum chief at many well known hotels and restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Brunei. Having spent years in various restaurants, he has put his wide knowledge of many ingredients and cooking styles to good use and succeeded in creating dim sum which may justifiably be called his own.

Chef Chong Kei promises to delight Penangites and patrons of Shang Palace with his interpretation of the ordinary dim sum selections and he introduces some of his own creations for you to enjoy.

His knowledge and skills are not only limited to dim sum but will also surprise many with his talent in making Chinese Mooncakes and rice dumplings.

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Written by Chin Mun Woh
Photographs © Adrian Cheah
First published in 2003

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Note: Although this article was first published in 2003, the recipe and age-old method of making mooncakes by hand are still relevant today.

Since then, Shangri-La Hotel Penang along Magazine Road was renamed Traders Hotel Penang and today it is known as JEN Penang Georgetown by Shangri-La.