Ease your digestive tract after a heavy consumption of mooncakes with expertly chosen whisky, cognac and port.
As the mid-autumn festival beckons, one of the most nostalgic festivities ingrained Chinese culture marks its annual return. Colloquially known as the mooncake festival thanks to the copious consumption of this delectable pastry leading up to the auspicious evening, it is a celebration romantically encapsulated in a folklore revolving around lunar deity Chang’e, revered as the Moon Goddess of Immortality.
Evolving with the times, mooncakes have taken on all forms and flavours. From traditional fillings such as mung bean and lotus pastes, to modern interpretations such as the musang king durian, mooncakes have become a culinary art form best appreciated with an exquisite drink underneath a moonlit sky.
While we all have our favourites – mooncakes and drinks – they don’t necessarily go hand in hand. To prevent you from squandering a bottle of perfectly fine 95-point oak barrel-aged Chardonnay on sickly sweet lotus paste baked mooncakes, stick to these tips. Pairing mooncakes with whisky, cognac and port made effortless.
Cut through the excessive sweetness
The majority of baked mooncakes are either awfully sweet or diabolically sweet. To cut through the excessive sweetness of mooncakes with whisky and other spirits, and alleviate the shock it sends to your gustatory system, get some amber liquids that can conceal the sugar and allow the flavour of the ingredient to rise above. This can be achieved with crisp whisky and cognac that are either especially oaky or spicy, which also helps to enhance the taste of the pastry skin.
Examples include The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask, Martell Cordon Bleu, Teeling Single Grain and Hennessy X.O, all of which are known for their long spicy finish. On top of that, any rye whiskey will carry out the same job with its exceedingly dry and spicy aftertaste.
What goes with snow skin?
If you are like me who succumb to fridge-chilled snow skin mooncakes every time, opt for water of life that is lighter on the palate. I would suggest The Signature Blend from Royal Salute, Rémy Martin XO and Yamazaki 12 Years Old, whose house styles prescribe them to be silkier and delicate, without overpowering any edible they are paired with.
Since the snow skin mooncake uses glutinous rice flour, rice wine such as sake will also draw out the natural fragrance of rice. Although sake is habitually served warmed, it slurps equally as well chilled. With flavoured sake now ubiquitous, it isn’t too onerous to find one that corresponds with the fruity filling of the snow skin mooncake.
Prolong the savoury finish
Mooncakes containing mixed nuts, salted egg yolks, and non-halal and increasingly rare Chinese ham are often polarising due to its biting, savoury, saline flavour; not unlike Islay whisky which divides opinions thanks to its peaty, briny body evocative of sea spray. But when they are served together, they mellifluously produce sensorial sparks. You can also raise the glass with less peaty yet robust alternatives.
Sweet on sweet
Like denim-on-denim looks, if you could pull it off, you would look spectacular – otherwise it would be an abhorrent failure. For the sweet-toothed and those insistent on wine, get something from dessert aisles. The easiest approach is to get a bottle of port. This fortified wine is grouped by styles. For mooncakes especially jelly and snow skin with fruity fillings such as dragon fruit, go for sprightly ruby port, while for any bean paste – mung bean, adzuki bean and the likes – get tawny port, which has been aged further in order to impart nuttiness, instead.
Coconut, butterscotch and other fancy and unusual flavoured mooncakes are best washed down with reciprocal spirits. Off the top of my head, The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve exudes a distinctive coconut aroma; The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old teems with vanilla and butterscotch; and Jameson Black Barrel and Caskmates Stout Edition are respectively imbued with lingering banana and cocoa. Quality, aged rum – in other words matured in wooden barrels and sans added sugar – can enrich any tropical, fruity flavoured mooncake too.
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