Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Section, August 28, 2011
I Surrender to Mooncakes
People call me a lot of names. There’s “siopao,” “ah-puy” (which is basically a gentler and more endearing Chinese way of calling someone fat), a more direct “taba”, “jin,” “jinlovestoeat,” etc., etc.
One of my favorite nicknames is “mooncake face,” probably because I have this affinity with the sweet Chinese delicacy. (Question: Why can’t we have it all year round? WHY???) My favorite is the traditional white lotus paste with quadruple egg yolks. My stand on mooncake is this simple: The more yolks, the merrier.
I am really excited because Mid-Autumn Festival is just around the corner. In the fair-skinned, chinky-eyed community, mid-autumn is considered the second most important occasion after Chinese New Year. It is a time when families and friends gather and eat together. Plus it is mooncake-filled, so in my book, this is major.
So we go all out and celebrate with a bang, and in an elegant, red and gold setting that is the Mabuhay Palace. The walls and walls of intricate jade carvings enveloping the restaurant are awemazing, the beautiful visuals indulge every diner with the rich life story of the great Confucius.
There is nothing like thin slices of duck meat and skin on top of each other, slathered with sweet hoisin sauce and wrapped protectively like a newborn baby to start off the Mid-Autumn Festival feast.
The Braised Chicken Shark’s Fin Soup with Fish Maw is rich and thick and generous with fillings, a potion that is warmly welcomed by my starving tummy. A quick drizzle of black vinegar enhances the flavors like a touch of magic.
It is probably the prettiest lettuce basket I’ve ever seen. Pan-fried crabmeat, jiggly egg whites and golden crispy conpoy lay lazily on top of it. I pick up the bundle tenderly and feel the sudden urge to sing a lullaby to it. Instead I open my mouth and devour the baby in two quick moves. Oh, the poor pretty baby tastes so good.
The Mabuhay Palace Chicken done Two Ways is pure genius. Chef Joie explains that as more adults become more health-conscious, she sees more chicken skin go to waste. Not wanting to throw away the most delicious organ of the bird, the sous chef comes up with this brilliant idea of making different dishes of the meat and skin. The healthier part is diced up and sautéed in a spicy gingery sauce that rapes my tastebuds (pleasure all mine). The not-so-healthy-but-so-much-more-exciting part is used to create the pièce de résistance of the meal – tasty shrimp mousse sandwiched between the thinnest, crispest layer of chicken skin, and the nuttiest, crunchiest layer of roasted sesame seeds. It’s deadly, I tell you. If I die tomorrow, I want 2 pieces of this as part of my very last supper.
There’s also my all-time favorite Braised House Special Bean Curd topped with Baby Abalone and Shimeji Mushrooms that is delicious each time I visit, the perfectly cooked Steamed Live Pit Lobster in creamy Mabuhay Palace Supreme Sauce, and the Fried Live Dragon Head Garoupa in Thai Chili Sauce that is so full of crunch, so full of fire.
To balance the meal we have Braised Bailing Mushroom and Fish Maw with Seasonal Vegetables. And of course, a Chinese meal is not a Chinese meal without some Fortune Wrapped Fragrant Rice. Now don’t you just love the sound of that? Kaching, kaching!
A light dessert of Yam Bits with Jackfruit and Baby Pearls in Coconut Milk prepares us for the main event – a tasting of Mabuhay Palace’s very own mooncake creations: Assorted Nuts with Candied Cranberries, Premium White Lotus with Melon Seeds and Yolk, Mango Cheesecake with Yolk , and Jasmine Tea with… wait for it… Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Praline! Help me, sweet Jesus!
Mabuhay Palace’s mooncake creations:
Experience the same indulgence of the Mid-Autumn Festival Set Menus starting from Php2,000++ at Mabuhay Palace, Ground Floor of The Manila Hotel, One Rizal Park, Manila. Call (632) 527-0011 local 1261 for reservations.