Saturday, October 13, 2007

Making Mooncakes

An old hand at making mooncakes

HENG Swee Lian has her hands full every time the mooncake festival approaches as she takes pride and pleasure in making mooncakes for neighbours, friends and relatives.

Heng’s kitchen would be abuzz with activity as close friends come in to help to her meet her growing orders.

The mooncake making sessions, at her home in Jalan Mahsuri, Sungai Besar, Selangor, start at least three weeks before the festival.

Fresh from the oven: A tray of mooncakes ready to be packed for Heng’s regular clientele.
Weeks before the festival, Heng would make a trip into Kuala Lumpur to buy the ingredients for her mooncakes.

She learnt to make the mooncakes 18 years ago from baker Yang Seow Choon from Muar, Johor.

Annual routine: A festive affair in Heng’s kitchen as her family and friends help out. Heng (third from left) and her sister Heng Yoke Len (right) are making mooncakes while in the background, Noraisyah Boimin (left), Tan Ah Jah (second from left) and Lucy Khiew (second from right) help out.
Heng initially learnt three basic recipes – Red Bean Paste, Lotus Paste and Five Nuts mooncakes – and then moved on to learn other types. She went for classes to learn to make snow skin (ping pei) and agar-agar mooncakes.

Deft fingers: Heng deftly wrapping the mooncake skin over a ball of lotus paste filling.

Among her mooncakes are Snow Skin Yam, Snow Skin Pandan, Snow Skin Black Sesame, Five Nuts, Lotus Paste, Shanghai Mooncake, Pandan, Green Tea, Red Bean, Agar-Agar, Chocolate, Coffee, Dragon Fruit and Green Tea/Dragon Fruit/Corn.

“Over the years, I have adapted the recipes to suit the taste buds of consumers as today’s generation prefer less sugar in the filling,” she said.

Her bestsellers are the Shanghai Yam Paste Mooncake and Five Nuts Mooncake.

“It is very tiring to make these mooncakes because every one of them is handmade.

“Since it is a once-a-year affair, I don’t mind, but I would not do this if I had to make mooncakes every day,” said Heng who is a tailor in the small town.

Heng’s interest in making sweetmeats does not stop at mooncakes. She has attended various biscuit making courses and also makes Chinese New Year cookies.

Heng can be reached at 03-3224 1362.

Red Bean Paste Mooncake recipe

For the filling

Mid-Autumn delight: Home-baked mooncakes from Heng’s kitchen.
1 kg red beans
1 kg sugar
4 tbsp molasses
4 tbsp rose sugar
600gm oil (Knife brand)


Boil the red beans until soft or place in pressure cooker.

Add sugar slowly, little by little.

Add oil slowly, little by little.

Then add the molasses and, lastly, the rose sugar.

The paste must be kept aside for two to three days to allow the oil to show and the filling has a lovely shine.

Make palm-sized balls and set aside.

For the skin

250gm black syrup (made from sugar, lemon and water that is boiled continuously for more than five hours till the liquid is dark and thick) which is prepared months before the festival
700gm wheat flour
150gm peanut oil (Knife brand)
1/4 tsp air abu (sodium carbonate water)
Water to make a dough


Pour the wet ingredients into the flour and mix thoroughly, then keep aside for six hours so the dough is of the required texture.

Break off a handful of the dough and flatten.

Place a palm-sized ball of red bean paste in the middle and then gently work with both hands to cover the ball with the dough.

Once the filling is covered, place the mooncake in a wooden or plastic mould to shape the pastry.

Remove the mooncake from the mould by tapping the mould against a flat surface. Place the mooncakes on trays and bake in an oven preheated at 170°C.

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