Choosing the best out of 73 mooncakes of various forms and flavours is no easy feat.
However, the StarMetro team was up for the challenge and took time off from their regular duties recently to sample and pick the cream of the crop from around town.
Some 21 restaurants, bakeries and hotels participated in the review by sending over their specialities to be rated by the team.
This year’s categories were Baked Skin, Snow Skin, Special Mention and Delightful Durian.
The Baked Skin category referred to mooncakes covered in brown baked skin, regardless of its filling.
Popular traditional flavours such as Lotus Paste with Single Yolk and Assorted Fruit and Nuts dominated among the entries in this category.
Some of the contemporary flavours included Black Sesame Single Yolk (Empire Hotel Subang and Putrajaya Marriott Hotel), Dragon Fruit Lotus Paste (Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur) and Baker’s Cottage’s Pearl of Harmony with black sesame seed and mung bean in its filling.
In the Snow Skin category, other creative combinations were showcased, such as Green Tea with Custard Chocolate (Grand Imperial Group), Tiramisu Truffle, Dark Chocolate Truffle and Crystal Blueberry Paste (Baker’s Cottage).
The Special Mention was created to cater to those creations which are neither baked nor made from snow skin.
About three years ago, when the last mooncake tasting was done, there were only two durian mooncake entries.
However, this year’s organising committee headed by deputy news editor Esther Chandran decided that a separate category for the King of Fruits, was needed.
“We received 10 entries for the durian category.
“Durian is a strong flavour and by moving it out of the snow skin category, other snow skin flavours had the chance to impress judges with their creative combinations in taste” she said.
The team waited anxiously to taste the durian mooncakes which were left to the last to sample, allowing them to taste the rest of the varieties first.
Once they were cut into portions, the overwhelming durian aroma filled the room quickly.
Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s Snow Skin with Musang King Durian clinched the first place for this category.
Many were impressed by its creamy texture and it was still cool to the touch, which prompted many to go for second helpings.
Writer Eu Hooi Khaw, who was one of the two external judges, said she liked the slightly bitter taste of the durian.
“It was like putting a whole seed of durian in my mouth. I like my durians to be a little bitter,” she said.
Imperial Musang King and Royale (Tai Thong Group) came in second and Corus Hotel’s Snow Skin Musang King slipped into third place after it was a clear winner in 2011’s list.
In the Special Mention category, Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur’s Dark Chocolate with Green Tea Ganache and Crunchy Macaroon won the hearts of many chocolate lovers with its combination.
Many liked that it was not overly sweet and it was smooth in the mouth.
In second place was Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur’s White Chocolate with Lychee Filling and Chocolate Caviar, followed by Intercontinental’s Almond Skin with Pandan Paste and Single Yolk in third place.
In the Snow Skin category, the Mini Snow Skin Chocolate and Whisky from Prince Hotel & Residence, Kuala Lumpur stole the show.
Its rich chocolate paste tinged with alcohol wrapped in soft snow skin made a comeback after winning the Nouveau Bites (Snow Skin category) in 2010.
Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Autumn Jade was not far behind in second place and many enjoyed its combination of pandan and parmesan cheese with mandarin orange infused chocolate soft centre.
There was a tie for the next spot between Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Blue Moon (Snow Skin Amaretto Lotus Paste with Blueberry Cheese Feuillantine) and The Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur’s Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial Champagne Mooncake with Lotus Paste.
For the Baked Skin category, Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Baked Lotus Paste came out on top, especially for those who love their mooncakes plain and simple but tasty.
Coming in a close second are its Traditional Styled Baked with Five Nuts and Tai Thong Group’s Dragon Fruit and Coconut Single Yolk.
Grace Chen, a writer and the other external judge, said Tai Thong Group’s Dragon Fruit and Coconut Single Yolk was something unusual.
“I have never seen coconut being used for mooncakes before. It is a bold move to Malaysianise the mooncake culture,” she said.
In third place was Single Yolk with Goh Tong Pu-Er Lotus Paste (Resort World Genting), which contains Goh Tong Pu-Er tea, giving a hint of tea sweetness to a traditional mooncake.
Some of the mooncakes that were sampled heavily but did not make the lists included Eastin Petaling Jaya’s Fruits and Nuts and Snow Skin Corn with Custard, as well as Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur’s Black Sesame with Peanut Butter.
Although many flavours were well-accepted, including some unusual ones, there were some combinations that many agreed did not work such as mixing in ingredients like ginseng or bird’s nest.
The boxes that held the mooncakes also received plenty of attention as many hotels came up with creative ideas to create multipurpose boxes.
The one that stood out in the room was Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s box, which doubled as a lantern.
Although it took third place for best packaging, most reporters and sub-editors were requesting for one to take home after the event.
The crown went to Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s mooncake gift box, which could be used to store jewellery and other accessories.
Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Prestige Gift Box, which could be used as a wine case, came in second.