I don’t know when the so called ‘Shanghai mooncakes’ first appeared on the Malaysian mooncake scene. But the past couple of years, I kept coming across the name ‘Shanghai mooncakes’ from Malaysian websites and bloggers. It was quite an eye-opener to me as I have never heard of Shanghai mooncakes before. A quick search on the internet yields no recipe result from China. All the recipes seem to come from Malaysian or Singaporean websites or bloggers. So what is going on here?
As far as I know from my reasonably limited knowledge on mooncakes, the mooncake that came from around Shanghai area is the well known ‘Su-Style Mooncake’ (蘇式月餅) from Jiangsu (usually shortened to just ‘Su’ as a name) province of China which is known for its Huaiyang cuisine. So it is not surprising that all the different types of ‘Su-Style Mooncake’ are made with Huaiyang Flaky Pastry. Now that begs the question, where then do the shortcrust- or biscuit-pastry ‘Shanghai Mooncakes’ of Malaysia originated from?
After a closer scrutiny at those recipes, I was surprised to discover they were very similar to a Cantonese dim sum called ‘Kam Loh Sou’ (甘露酥 or occasionally written as 金露酥). ‘Kam Loh Sou’ is a Hong Kong styled pastry snack with lotus paste and salted egg yolk wrapped inside a shortcrust-like biscuit (or cookie) pastry. Now we all know that Hong Kong was under British rule so the the snack is probably a fusion of English and Chinese cuisine by combining a western styled pastry with a Chinese filling. The reason being that the two characters, ‘kam loh’, do not make any sense in Chinese to describe the snack, they would have literally translated as ‘sweet dews/beads’ or ‘golden dews/beads’ as written, so it must have been a direct phonetic translation of a foreign word. If the two characters, ‘kam loh’, are pronounces quickly together, they sounded like ‘crumble’ or ‘crumbly’ which would perfectly describe the texture of the shortcrust pastry.
If the ‘Shanghai mooncake’ is indeed an adaptation from ‘kam loh sou’, then it must have been a marketing genius who renamed the snack as ‘Shanghai Mooncake’ as a clever marketing ploy to sell more mooncakes.
The so called Shanghai mooncakes I have come across asked for 2 parts filling to 1 part pastry for each mooncake and I found it impossible to wrap with this ratio. So I have to adjust it to roughly 1 part filling to 1 part pastry which most ‘Kam Loh Sou’ recipes recommended. Another moot point was that most ‘Kam Loh Sou’ recipes use a bigger proportion of egg in making the pastry (except one recipe in one of my cookbooks which uses no egg at all), while the Shanghai mooncakes use a tiny proportion of egg in theirs. After attempting to use only half an egg to make the pastry, I found the dough too stiff for wrapping, so finally I added in the other half of the egg to make the pastry more pliable, not sure if the cold weather has anything to do with it. Even with the adjustment to the recipe of 1 : 1 ratio for filling and pastry, I still found it hard to wrap with the pastry splitting open everytimes I stretched it a bit too much trying to accommodate the filling. So I don’t know how the ratio of 2 : 1 of filling to pastry can work, unless I am missing something or there’s a special technique of wrapping, or a lot of patching up required?
As you know from my previous post, I am currently learning to make salted eggs for the first time, but they are still not ready yet, a few more days to go. So in desperation, I resorted to making vegetarian salted yolks using mung bean paste for the filling.
After baking, a few of the mooncakes did have crooked shapes (too much egg addded maybe?) with a little of the pastry melting downward slightly, but the rest stood up well.
One of the crooked mooncakes with the expanding base.
The pastry of the mooncakes was crisp and delicious just after cooling down, but it did soften just that slightest after storing for one day, which didn’t surprise me as the pastry would have absorbed some moisture from the filling. But it still had that shortcrust texture, just not as crisp as freshly baked. Anyway I will still post the recipe I adjusted and used for future reference below, but I will try to improve it for next year if I remember. For my own record, try half lard, half butter next time, and use icing sugar instead of caster sugar.
Makes approx. 12 mooncakes, or 20 mini-size mooncakes
100g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
270g plain flour
30g custard powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten for eggwash
some pepitas, walnut halves, or flaked almonds, for decoration
500g lotus paste
Inner Filling (makes about 250g paste) *:
125g (1/2 cup) split mung beans
60ml canola oil
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
* The inner filling may be substituted with cooked salted egg yolks, use whole yolk or halved yolk depending on size of each mooncake
Rinse then soak the skinless mung beans for about 2 hours, drain and steam until soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Mash the cooked mung beans and stir in sugar and salt. Heat the oil in a wok and add the mung beans, stirring to mix well together until it becomes a stiff paste. Remove and cool. Pinch and round into balls of about 15g-20g each for bigger mooncakes, or 10g each for making mini mooncakes.
The texture of the salty mung bean paste.
The vegetarian yolks made from mung bean paste.
Divide the lotus paste into 40g portion each for bigger mooncakes, or 20-25g portion each for mini mooncakes.
1. Sift plain flour, custard powder and baking powder together. Set aside.
2. Cream softened butter and sugar until pale in colour.
3. Beat in egg then fold in the flour mixture. Lightly knead into a soft dough. Cover with cling film and leave aside to rest for about 20 minutes.
4. Divide into 50g portion each for bigger mooncakes, or 30g portion for mini mooncakes.
Wrapping and baking mooncakes:
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Make sure the pastry is still soft enough after resting, especially in cold weather, by lightly kneading the pastry with your fingers until pliable. Press each pastry piece into a flat round circle. Place a portion of lotus paste in the middle and a ball of mung bean paste on top of the lotus paste. Alternatively, wrap the mung bean ball inside the lotus paste beforehand and place the combined filling in the middle of the pastry round.
2. Wrap the filling inside the pastry by pushing the pastry up and around the filling while pressing the filling inside the enclosing pastry (this method is the same as wrapping traditional Cantonese mooncakes which ensures an even thickness of pastry). Altenatively, roll the pastry into a thin pastry cicle and wrap the filling inside by pinching and sealing the edges.
3. After wrapping the filling, shape into a ball shape and then roll the bottom part between your palms to shape into a cylindrical bottom with a dome top (roughly like a mushroom before the cap opens).
4. Eggwash the top of each mooncake and place 3 pepitas or flaked almonds (or 1 halved walnut) decoratively on top.
5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until light golden brown.
Taste: Crisp biscuit-like pastry with a soft, sweet and salty filling
Consume: Best within a few days
Storage: Store in airtight container
Recipe References: ‘上海月餅’ recipe by Wendy 老師, and ‘蛋黃甘露酥’ recipe by 李德全 in the Chinese cookbook, ‘茶樓點心好簡單’