In the two months leading up to the mid-autumn festival, family-run restaurant Tuck Chan changes its opening hours so that the whole family can get together to make mooncakes. Behind the kitchen counter, Wong Yew Hoong (the fourth generation owner of Tuck Chan) and his mother, Goh Hoon Lian, work together efficiently making snowskin mooncakes by hand: deftly tucking the dough around uniformly sized lotus and red bean paste balls (100 grams each), flouring the wooden mooncake mould, and knocking the mould exactly four times before a perfectly formed mooncake slides out.
Opened in 1941 by Wong’s great-grandfather from Guangzhou, Tuck Chan began as a dim sum restaurant, and eventually evolved into a fullfledged Chinese restaurant. It survived the Japanese Occupation and a fire (as well as the restaurant’s subsequent rebuilding), and through it all, the Wong family makes mooncakes every year.
Photo: Daniel Chan
While most bakeries have resorted to factory-made bean paste (making paste from scratch is a laborious process), Wong explains that they believe good paste is the foundation of all exceptional mooncakes; at least two days of the week are reserved for paste-making: lotus seeds are shelled from pods, boiled twice (once to remove its membrane and then again to soften it), then steamed for a solid eight hours before being milled.
Wong adds that their red bean mooncakes aren’t made with red beans, but with red bamboo beans (a flattish variety) for better taste and texture. The beans are boiled and pushed through a strainer to remove the husk, with the resulting paste sieved through a cloth and squeezed dry, and then heated to remove all moisture. It’s finally cooked on low heat, constantly stirred and thickened with oil and sugar syrup (which is made a year ahead for better colour, fragrance and texture) for two hours until it forms a glossy, satiny paste.
Photo: Daniel Chan
The paste is then used in the mooncakes, both baked and the snowskin version. According to Goh, their snowskin dough is made with roasted glutinous rice flour, pandan, the aforementioned sugar syrup, oil and lemon juice; it’s a traditional version that doesn’t require refrigeration.
The work is hard, but the payoff is rich: the red bean mooncake at Tuck Chan is smooth and velvety soft, the paste melting on the tongue. If you see the mooncakes cooling on the wooden racks, take a deep whiff of the unique lotus seed fragrance. They won’t stay for long on the racks anyway.
Get the handmade mooncakes here
Opened in 1941 by Wong Yew Hoong’s great-grandfather from Guangzhou, Tuck Chan began as a dim sum restaurant, and eventually evolved into a full-fledged Chinese restaurant. It survived the Japanese Occupation and a fire (as well as the restaurant’s subsequent rebuilding), and through it all, the Wong family makes mooncakes every year.