Best Mooncakes in Flushing
Mooncake time will soon be upon us, and I've already started receiving boxes of them from all of my students- everything from red bean and double egg-stuffed to exotic fruit flavors. Last year I got huge individual dried-seafood-stuffed ones in gorgeous red silk boxes with tassels. This year I need to get a few boxes for a Taiwanese family that I'd like to impress but not sure where the best ones would be. Today after dim sum, I walked around Main Street and noticed all of the order sheets at Tai Pan Bakery and Fay Da, but was looking for something a bit more impressive.
Where can I get the DiFara of mooncakes :) Does it even exist or are they all pretty much the same?
All Good Things,
we just had some miniature mooncakes over the past weekend, and these were from Yi Mei Bakery; there are plenty of locations but what's nice about these is that they're made local, as opposed to airshipped from HK or China, so they taste that much fresher. We had an assortment of the smaller ones (not the traditional large ones with the lettering stamped across the top) and I thought these flavors were really unique and different; these were the white flaky domes, with some decoration on top to indicate the filling and I think, really good.
+ a black sesame filling with a bit of salt and pepper as well; the top is sprinkled with black sesame seeds. excellent
+ a single yolk inside mung bean filling; the top looks like crushed yellow rock candy
+ a longan filling with a smooth paste in which floated chunks of longan; not sure what the top was on that one
+ we also had my personal favorite which is the one w/ 5 kinds of nuts, floating in some lardy-stuff along with chunks of candied melon
there were many more, but we're saving that for tomorrow; anyway, these Yi Mei ones may be more casual (it's a paper box that holds a dozen of these smaller ones) but I really found the flavors and pastry fresh, and the flavors really delicious.
I was too quick to discredit that box of Malaysian mooncakes I had received last week. Today, after cutting up the remainder and putting them out for my afternoon students, I tasted a slice of an "Imperial Jade Mooncake without Yolk." It was outstanding with a roasted nut taste and a slightly sweet peanutbutter-y after taste.
Even our discerning chowpup concurred :)
The quality of Mooncakes sold in the New York Chinatowns encompass a wide range from uneatable to mediocre to excellent, where in the best mooncakes, the thin outside crust has a slight chewy texture and is sweet flavored, while the filling is moist and has a smooth and soft texture, yet not too oily or too sweet with a pronounced rich flavor of the filling used. The salted duck egg yolks should be shiny and bright yellow and also should be moist with an egg flavor and not overly salty.
Like many foods in this world, Mooncakes are an acquired taste. There are also health concerns, since a single mooncake has 600 to 1000 calories, high cholesterol, high fat, and high salt content. A typical serving of mooncake is one-eighth to one-quarter of a mooncake. It is not advisable for one to eat a whole mooncake at one sitting.
We have lost track of all the many different brands of mooncakes available at the Chinese grocery stores in Flushing, but if our memory serves us, we have noticed a large number of different brands from China plus the older established brands from Hong Kong that have been sold in the New York Chinatowns for many years. It just happened that our family was in Flushing this Saturday at the large grocery store on Kissena next to the Flushing library where they were giving out free samples of mooncakes from two China brands, but they were not very good compared to the well known Hong Kong brand “Wing Wah.” We have also tasted many mooncakes, with most of them from China or little local bakeries, that were given to people as gifts over the years and thus far none of the China brands or local bakeries that we have tasted are as good as the best Hong Kong brands. There may be a China brand or local bakery that is just as good as the better Hong Kong brands, but we have not yet come upon one in our very limited eating of mooncakes that would be considered excellent. Mooncakes are quite expensive, with the China brands and local bakeries selling for $20 to $30 (typically 4 mooncakes to a box) for the white lotus with one egg yolk, while the “Wing Wah” brand (white lotus/one yolk) sells for $31 per box. Each extra egg yolk adds $3 to $4 per box to the cost, hence a double egg yolk white lotus will probably cost over $35. Mooncakes traditionally come with a filling of Red Bean, Lotus, White lotus, or Mixed Nuts, but our favorite is the White lotus with double egg yolk, although there are many novelty mooncakes with a variety of fillings and outside crusts. Most Chinese consider lotus as the best filling for mooncakes. The salty egg yolk complements the very sweet White Lotus filling very nicely, while the mixed nuts are usually too sweet for our taste. The mooncakes sold in America are usually of the Cantonese variety, since a large percentage of the Chinese in America are Cantonese.
Mooncakes are usually given as gifts, which explains the very fancy boxes and elegant packaging, but the “Wing Wah” brand, which can be found in almost all of the many Chinatown stores and are quite good, come in a very simple metal tin, but most stores will give you a fancy little bag. If you give a box of “Wing Wah” White Lotus mooncakes to your Taiwan family as a gift, you could not go wrong. They will not speak unkindly of you once you leave, since they would be aware of the high cost and reputation of the “Wing Wah” mooncakes. If you really want to impress your Taiwan family, you would try to find a box of White Lotus mooncakes with 4 egg yolks (very rare to find a box with 4 egg yolks) or at the very least, double egg yolks. There might be other brands that are just as good or even better than “Wing Wah,” but “Wing Wah” is easily available. Other Hong Kong brands that are supposed to be good are Maxim’s. For many years, there were mooncakes from San Francisco, but we have not seen them recently in Flushing. A venerable brand from San Francisco are the mooncakes from the Great Eastern bakery. And there are also the many mooncakes from the local bakeries such as Fa Da and Taipan that might be good also, since they would have the advantage of being fresher without the need to be shipped half way around the world. We have tasted the Fa Da mooncakes many years ago, which were not too bad, but they lacked the rich and deeper flavor of the “Wing Wah” mooncakes. We have not tried the mooncakes at the local “Yeh” bakery mentioned by the poster “Squid Kun” and cannot provide any opinion on their quality. The best thing would be to buy a box and try them first and if good then go back and buy another box as the gift, and yes, we do understand this would be a very expensive method requiring very deep pockets to find out which are the better mooncakes, but unfortunately there is no other sure fire method.
One other possibility is to give one of the better mooncake boxes that you have received as a gift to your Taiwan friends. Any “Wing Wah” mooncakes in your little cache of gifts? And this method would save you money too.
You had mentioned that the Fa Da and Taipan bakeries were taking orders for mooncakes. Does this mean the mooncakes will not be sold ala carte in the Fa Da and Taipan bakeries, but only on prior order?
Thank you for your excellent, informative reply. Unfortunately my cache did not include any Wing Wah, but I will definitley seek out a box of four yolkers through my vast Asian connection here in Flushing. We have many colleagues who travel back and forth weekly, so I will ask some of them to try to procure a box in Hong Kong if I can not find the coveted quadrup-yolks here.
My three year old can plow though three small mooncakes or one large one at a sitting, which after reading your nutritionals, doesn't seem to be the "healthy alternative" to "American snacks" that our Asian friends insist. LOL. My husband abhors the things, so he'll be happy to know that YES!!! there does exist a food that tastes bad AND isn't so healthy....
As for the mooncake orders at the bakeries, I believe that in addition to them, one will be able to purchase the mooncakes a la carte. The countergirl at Tai Pan offered me a large, sweet-bean filled one for $6.
FWIW, a friend also mentioned that beautiful emporium, Shanghai Tang, in NYC for artisinal (!!!) moonackes...
All Good Things and Thanks Again,
We weren’t aware that the fancy Shanghai Tang clothes store on Madison Ave sold artisanal mooncakes. It would be interesting to know who is providing their mooncakes, although it may not be too pleasant to contemplate the prices of mooncakes sold at the Shanghai Tang store. If a good box of mooncakes in a déclassé Flushing Chinese grocery store sells for $35, our guess is that the ones at Shanghai Tang might sell for $50 to $70 per box. And at the probable high prices that Shanghai Tang would charge, the assumption would be that the mooncakes are very good, plus the box and packaging would look good enough to eat also.
The mooncakes sold at Shanghai Tang might be similar to the online mooncakes sold by the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The Raffles high end mooncakes are popular enough that they are sold online at http://www.raffleshotelmooncakes.com/... . The Raffles Hotel sells a non-traditional mooncake with a Champagne Truffles and Ganache filling at the very impressive price of $45 for 8 mini mooncakes, while the more traditional white lotus filling with just a single yolk sells for $49. These prices do not including shipping, which are probably not insignificant, especially for air-freight shipping from Singapore to America. And with your three year old wolfing down three mini-cakes at a sitting, you might have to moonlight a little as a tutor to afford either the Raffles Hotel or the Shanghai Tang mooncakes.
You appear to be turning your three year old into a quasi-Asian kid with all those mooncake snacks. By chance, does your three year old also eat the “thousand year” duck eggs? We would really be impressed to hear this. (LOL) In fact, if your three year old does eat the “thousand year” duck eggs, they could immediately be inducted as an honorary Chinese. There are not many non-Asians who can eat those “thousand year” eggs. One usually has to start eating them at a very young age in order to acquire a taste for them.
The Chowpup has not had a thousand year suck egg...err I mean duck egg yet :) "Yet" being the operative word in that sentence. However his mama abhors them, as I am sure you have guessed, and this is why he hasn't partaken. Soon.
The "moonlighting as a tutor" quip had me chuckle- I hold class each night at home until 11:45 with all of my Korean and Taiwanese high schoolers working on early decision applications to all the Ivies. My endeavors, so enjoyable I really shouldn't refer to them as such, have paid for many, many a dinner :)
My students refer to my son as "Wasian" and although many find the term offensive, we understand it; he has a completely Asian tummy!
Yours in Mooncakes,
Your Freudian slip about the “thousand year eggs” is quite mild compared to what our non-Asian friends say about it. Some of them said they were about to throw-up when they tried to eat it. (LOL)
We were at the Kam Sen grocery store on Main Street (corner Franklin), Flushing, today and they actually had one remaining box of Wing Wah lotus mooncakes with 4 egg yolks for the very reasonable price of $35.50. Their Wing Wah lotus with two eggs was only $29.50 (one dented box remaining, hence not suitable for gift purposes). According to the Wing Wah boxes, they are celebrating their 57th Anniversary in business. Kam Sen also had Sheng Kee, a west coast brand that is fairly good, selling in the high 20’s. And if you go to the Manhattan Chinatown, the mooncakes there may be even cheaper, but after the gas, parking hassles, and time, it may not be cost effective, unless you have other reasons to go there.
However, now that you have disclosed that you run a mini-school with super prep courses nightly out of your house, this post on cheaper mooncake prices at Kam Sen is probably superfluous. Shanghai Tang and Raffles Hotel mooncakes are well within your pocketbook. You can tell us if they are worth a small fortune. (LOL)
You plan to subject your three year old to “thousand year eggs” as an experiment in the future? (LOL)
Last night I got a box of tinned Malaysian moon cakes, the Foh San brand, that my student got at a Malaysian restaurant off of Main Street. There were four individually boxed mooncakes- one white lotus, two red bean, and one green tea with a single yolk.
My son most have really cultivated a taste for these things, as he took one bite of the red bean, grimaced, promptly spat it out and entreated
"Give me the GOOD ones please!" :)
Bingo! Hung How :) Just received a lovely tin of Wing Wah assorted mooncakes from one of my students.
1 white lotus seed paste ( 2 yolks)
1 Lotus seed ( 2 yolks)
1 red bean paste ( 2 yolks)
1 assorted nuts
Not the elusive four-yolkers, but still looking pretty good.
The strange thing is that the back of the tin clearly states that there is no plastic knife provided "for environmental purpose" and the first thing visible to the eye upon opening the tin is a plastic wrapped plastic knife!
Tonight's students told me that I would be a very cruel mommy if I chose to subject my little guy to the 1000 year old duck eggs. One went so far as to declare it "child abuse." Another said she'd rather eat balut three times a day for a week than one bite of the duck egg. I promised them I'd never be so mean.
Thanks for all of your mooncake insight once again- I learned a lot.
Good to see that you have finally received a box of Wing Wah mooncakes and possibly saving the Zenfoodist household $30 in capital expenditures (good for at least one DiFara’s square pie with several Italian sodas) by recycling the Wing Wah mooncakes as a gift to your Taiwan friends. We should add that the recycling of mooncakes is a well practiced tradition. In fact, these Wing Wah mooncakes may have been gifted around already.
We see that your students are quite compassionate in their concern for your son, but given that most of them are ABC’s (American Born Chinese) and ABK’s, we can understand their dislike of the “thousand year eggs.” The new Asian younger generation are becoming too Americanized, which is the usual refrain of the earlier initial immigrants to this country who grew up with the old traditions of the home country and naturally would like their children to continue these traditions.
That was quite an amusing story about your son rejecting the Malaysian mooncakes in your previous post.
Yes, your young son is acquiring quite a sharp tongue when it comes to mooncakes.
Our experience with mooncakes is that most of the mooncakes sold at the stores are pretty bad. We sampled several more off brand mooncakes in Flushing Chinatown yesterday and they were all terrible with dried out fillings and egg yolks, or fillings with no flavor, and a host of other shortcomings. One store hawker in front of their store offered to sell two boxes of mooncakes for just $30 dollars. We can imagine the response of your son after tasting those $15 dollar boxes of mooncakes.
There is a nice quote from a noted Science Fiction writer, Theodore Sturgeon, who in response to some critical commentary about the low quality of Science Fiction writing and that in general 90% of Science Fiction was “pulp fiction,” stated that it was not just Science Fiction, but that “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” Very true, and although there might be some literary hyperbole in Sturgeon’s statement, there is much truth in Sturgeon’s quote. Therefore on this basis, 90% of the mooncakes sold in the Chinatowns are indeed “crap.” Sturgeon’s quote can be extended to all the Chinese restaurants in the various Chinatowns also. Ninety percent of the Chinatown restaurants are also indeed “crap.”
Basically the goal of all discerning and educated people is to discover the remaining 10% of life that is beautiful and true. Keats’s poem “Ode On A Grecian Urn,” probably states it best in the last two lines:
“'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'”
Happy mooncake eating!
Agreed, but buying mooncakes with 4 egg yolks is like buying a gas guzzling Humvee in metro NYC, not quite warranted or required, but when a Humvee stops next you at a stop light, it definitely makes a statement (unless you also have a Humvee yourself). (LOL)
Prestige and excess appear to go hand in hand in our society. One cannot fight fashion, hence one goes with the flow. But buying mooncakes with 4 egg yolks for a gift is not as environmentally harmful as a Humvee, except possibly to the person eating the high cholesterol laden egg yolks (4 of them). (LOL)
I'd check out Yeh's Bakery, which makes moon cakes and has a Taiwanese focus. It's on Main Street south of the park, near the former Booth Memorial.
From the old ChowNews (5/26/06): "For dessert with a Taiwanese spin, hounds head for Yeh's, a little shop that makes tasty coconut, pineapple, and green tea-flavored sweets, Taiwan-style mung bean-filled cakes, and peach-shaped treats filled with red bean, among other things. Also nice: white sponge cake with cream, strawberries, and kiwi, a Western-style dessert that's apparently all the rage in Taiwan."
57-25 Main St, Queens, NY 11355