Friday, October 15, 2004

mooncake galore part 3:
where is my favourite mooncake from taiwan?

pretty packaging
apologies for my lack of post lately. my dearest dearest computer has kinda died down on me. i finally have it fixed so i could go online at the very least. fingers crossed it will be ok at least for the next week or so. *fingers & toes crossed*

so i was expecting my favourite mooncakes: taiwanese mung bean pastry (luu dou peng). ShinChan is back from Taiwan. i should be thrilled with excitement but i am not. why is that? the answer is simple. he didnt bring back any taiwanese mooncakes. *sigh* *sob*

instead he brought back his favourite mooncakes (grrrrrrr): xiao yue bing (literally little mooncake) and feng li su (pineapple cake). oh well. mei yu xia ye hao (chinese proverbs: no fish, prawns also can do, meaning better than having nothing at all).

Colourful Packaging for the mini cakes
♥ pretty little paper bags with bright colours
the feng li su (pineapple cake) comes prepacked in very cute tiny little individual paper bags. arent they just gorgeous especially the cute origami paper-fan at the top! this is one of the most common type of packaging for feng li su in taiwan. leaning more towards the upper class market is a shiny golden cardboard paperbox. unfortunately i havent got any with me this time.

feng li su is a western-influenced taiwanese delicacies. i am not so sure of the stories behind feng li su. come to think of it, i have never heard any stories relating to feng li su. feng li su actually a snack for all occasion and not just the mid-autumn festival though it is a must during the mid-autumn festival.

pineapple cake from top
♥ a squarish shortcrust pastry
opening up the bright yellow paperbag, i found this squarish little pastry. it's a little hard to tell what's inside unless you cut it open. nonetheless, if you have got a good sense of smell (think dogs!) you might be able to sniff up tiny bits of the pineapple aroma. but then again, it's really too hard to tell from sniffing because your nose is immediately incensed with a sweet buttery aroma once you open up the pack.

oh. i forgot to mention that these feng li su are actually homemade by my aunt. ever since my aunt learnt the secrets in the making of feng li su, we never bought from outside anymore. her feng li su is one of the best we ever had.

side of pineapple cake
♥ a closer inspection of the cake
feng li su makes very good gift or souviner. apart from the fact that it is yummy and dangerously more-ish, pineapple or feng li in mandarin bears the symbolic meanings of luck and prosperity in the chinese culture.

in taiwanese dialect (hokkien), feng li is pronounced as 'ong lai'. this harmonised with a hokkien term: ong meaning prosperity, lai meaning come. thus it is believed that pineapple is a lucky fruit that makes one prosperous. similarly, in cantonese culture, the pronunciation of pineapple: wong lai, vowels with attracting prosperity. this is why pineapple is always present as a sacrificial offering in a chinese temple.

pineapple is also a popular decoration during the chinese new year. beside the prosperity symbolism, pineapple is also a lucky charm that can brings luck , love, money, and anything that you can think of. it's also good for people taking exams too. it is said to help you pass (by luck)! this is probably the reason why feng li su makes a good gift (and yummy too!).

taiwanese pineapple cake - a shortcrust pastry really!
♥ pineapple cake
cutting open the sweet buttery crust, you see a thick layer of sweet pineapple paste. my room was filled with the sweet and citric aroma of pineapple paste. the sweet pineapple paste has a light tangy kick in it. the combination of the soft sticky and chewy paste together with the dry but buttery-rich crust is delightful. the crust just seems to dissolve and melts into your mouth. it is indeed very more-ish and can be dangerously addictive.

now it is easy to relate the pineapple paste to be made entirely of pineapple. nope! the pineapple paste actually consists mainly of winter-melon flesh. only a portion of the paste is made up of pineapple! surprise! surprise! you have to be careful though when buying pineapple cake. some bakeries add artificial flavouring and colouring to the winter melon paste, completely omitting any pineapple in their pineapple paste. my aunt bought the pineapple paste from a reputable wholesale bakery supplier in taiwan.

3 different fillings of pineapple cakes
♥ the many different varieties of the pineapple cake
from left to right:
♥ pineapple cake (feng li su)
♥ blueberry cake (lan mei su)
♥ taro cake (yu tou su) - my favourite!

there used to be only pineapple paste inside feng li su. it was only until 1995 that many different types of paste are used as fillings in place of the traditional pineapple paste.this is for yolk-lover: the pineapple paste is mixed together with cooked egg yolk to create the phoenix cake (feng huang su).

and so the many different types of fillings explains the very colourful paper bags. the colours are used to distinguish the different types of fillings. as a general guide, pineapple cake always come in a yellow bag. pink for strawberry, blue for blueberry and so on and so on. not hard to figure out, aye?

Stacks of pineapple cakes
♥ pineapple cake trio
the pineapple cake has very thin crust with a thick filling. this is not always the case. some bakeries have really thick crust with little filling. this would be good for a crust-lover (i.e. your highness here). that is if the crust is tasty.

i usually request my aunt for a thick crust version and she would make a few with extra thick crust. we have tried baking just the crust alone but it didnt work too well. the crust was too crumbly. the crust just fell apart into pieces and crumbs when you try to hold it up.

sydney's weather has been crazy lately. we had a very hot week. this morning i discovered about a quarter of the pineapple cakes are mouldy! *aiks* i was horrified. it's my fault partly too. i forgot to store them in the fridge. i should have done so. all the taro cakes are gone. *sob*

okie dokie. there is only one more mooncake post to go: the japanese mooncake from taiwan 'xiao yue bing'.