KUCHING, Sept 17: Halal mooncakes used to be a rarity, especially in Sarawak, but not anymore.
Local entrepreneur Noor Asmah Mohamed Mokhtar has been operating round-the-clock to meet orders before the actual Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival, which falls on Sept 24 this year.
Mooncake Festival is celebrated throughout the world on the 15th of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
It is also this time when Asmah’s home bakery would receive tons of orders from Muslims and non-Muslims from as far as Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
Ever since 2010, Asmah, 42, has been baking these lovely traditional Chinese pastry that Muslims can devour.
With her determination to learn how to make delectable, halal mooncakes, she has given the Muslim community the opportunity to participate in this delicious festival.
Mooncakes, traditionally filled with lotus seed paste and an egg yolk to represent the moon, are a joyous symbol crafted to celebrate the festival. Round in shape, mooncakes are thought to symbolise the reunion of a family and bring to mind distant friends and family.
Keeping those traditions alive, Asmah has crafted 16 different types of mooncakes, adding new flavours each year to suit different tastebuds.
“The most common mooncake filling is lotus paste. It is rich, thick, sweet and often the main component of traditional mooncakes. Other ingredients can be added, the most familiar of which is the egg yolk,” she said.
Some of her high-in-demand traditional baked mooncakes are pure lotus, ‘tausa’, green tea, pandan and durian based, adding salted egg yolk, melon seeds and nuts. They are priced between RM13 and RM38 a piece.
She said the demand for her halal mooncakes had been consistently increasing every year. Although there are many flavours available in the market, many mooncake lovers still prefer the traditional flavours, such as lotus, tausa, pandan and durian.
Speaking to DayakDaily, Asmah said she began producing mooncakes after her late mother-in-law, who was a Chinese Muslim, gave her the recipe.
“She told me this recipe was never written down, shared or passed on to anyone. So it was an honour for me to receive such an ‘heirloom’ from my mother-in-law. After that, I promised myself that I will continue her legacy and work hard to improve every year,” she disclosed.
Since the Mooncake Festival is seasonal, Asmah does not keep stock of ingredients, as she wants to make sure her products are fresh.
“I will produce about 250 to 400 pieces of dough and mooncake fillings every day. These must be kept overnight before putting them together in the mould. After putting them together, the raw mooncakes must be kept overnight before baking. This is to ensure that the dough sits properly, otherwise it will harden up if we bake them straight away,” Asmah demonstrated.
She added that the crust of the mooncake is the first thing everyone will see and lends to the overall aesthetic of the cake.
“Ideally, the crusts should be thin, light and moist to complement the filling rather than overpower it. The last thing you’d want is to break your teeth biting into a mooncake,” she chuckled.
Before the raw mooncakes go into the oven, they will be coated with egg yolk and then baked for 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.
Next step is to take them out and apply a second layer of egg yolk and bake for another 15 minutes.
As DayakDaily was eager to sample Asmah’s mooncakes, she later laughed and said, “Not yet. Be patient. These mooncakes must be left to stand for at least five days.”
Apparently, it takes time for the oil to come out of the baked mooncakes, which will turn out softer and deliciously melt in one’s mouth.
Asmah will be making her presence at the coming 17th Kuching InterCultural Mooncake Festival (KIMF) 2018, which will be held at Carpenter Street from today (Sept 17) till Sept 24 from 6-11pm.
“May we live long and share the beauty of the moon together,” she says. — DayakDaily