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Mooncake Time Again! - SGV recommendations?

It's time of year again. Mooncake time! (I know this will thrill ipsedixit no end)

I'd like to know if there's a consensus as to who has the best "traditional" style mooncakes...

and, who has the best "modern" style mooncakes. Which bakeries are your go to for mooncakes in the SGV?

I don't want to break the bank here, so no gold embossed boxes or high end mooncakes. I'm looking for best quality at value prices (if those aren't mutually exclusive).

Suggestions are appreciated (and needed by Saturday morning).

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  1. I don't mean to be pedantic about the whole thing, but define "traditional" and "modern".

    And, I suppose relatedly, what fillings do you want? Sweet? Savory? Sweet and savory?

    Type of crust? Flaky Taiwanese style? Cantonese "brown" style? Shortbread type crust?

    With all that said, you can get very good quality Brown crust (i.e. Cantonese) style mooncakes with a variety of fillings (red beans, dates, green bean ... with and without egg yolks) at Costco. Are they the "best" (whatever that means)? Probably not. But on a quality/cost basis ratio, they're hard to beat. Plus, if you don't like them, you can return them!

    If you give me more parameters, I'd be able to help you out more ... or you can just come over to my place and I can give you to the keys to my walk-in freezer with all the boxes of mooncakes that I've collected and made throughout the years.

    26 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Again, ipse, I'd seriously like to take those mooncakes off your hands. I tried emailing you last year, but got no response.

      I'll try emailing you again tomorrow, perhaps.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        ipse, I realize there are a wide range of mooncake variations and regional permutations.

        "Traditional" as in salted egg, lotus seed, mung bean, red bean, jujube, i.e. the "most" traditional.. "Modern" as in flavors not mentioned in the previous sentence (while interesting, I'm trying to stick closer to "traditional" than going as far as the "Snowys")

        Sweet?, yes. Savory? yes. Flaky?, yes. Cantonese style?, yes (well, again, the most common and traditonal of Cantonese variations).

        I'd be more than happy to take you up on your freezer offer, but I'm looking for the best offered at SGV bakeries. Surely, some of the bakeries have some decent ones. I've got quite an itinerary as is, so I'd prefer having to only make one or two bakery stops.

        1. re: JThur01

          For traditional, I suggest you skip the bakeries and go to Tak Shing Hong. The imported ones from Hong Kong are very very good.

          For Modern ones, go to 85C or if the lines are too long there, go to I Fu Tang.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Thanks ispe. What's the price range for the imported ones at Tak Shing Hong? Perhaps I'll hit 85C to take advantage of my free drink coupon at the same time. Any suggestions for places offering individual mooncakes vs. boxes? I didn't renew my Costco card.

            Any Tak Shing Hong location, or will whichever I'm closest to do?

            1. re: JThur01

              Just about any bakery will have individual mooncakes.

              Price range at TSH is anywhere from 20/box to 100+/box. I usually go to the one on Garvey in Monterey Park.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Curious....the highest priced Kee Wah ones are about $40 to $50 a box. What is inside the $100+ /box versions sold at the TSH? Kobe beef and Hokkaido conpoy?

                1. re: K K

                  I'm sure the prices factor in the Obama mooncake tariffs ... to protect the domestic producers like Kee Wah, of course.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Oh yes the 0% job growth mooncake stuffed with low approval ratings. Very expensive and angry indeed. But the key question is, will these unsold $100 projectiles fly a farther distance when you lob them at intruders in self defense and will they do more damage as they are likely more dense?

                    One other resource for Cantonese mooncakes....local high end seafood restaurants. But since I don't live in SoCal, I'm curious what Elite and Sea Harbor and others are upselling of their own. No idea how good they will be (and even I probably won't spend $ buying a box from Koi Palace).

                    -----
                    Koi Restaurant
                    730 N La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                    1. re: K K

                      A couple of years ago we were gifted a box of mooncakes from the former Triumphal Palace (currently Lunasia). It was good, but nothing that made the pre-packaged stuff shudder in fear.

                      -----
                      Triumphal Palace
                      500 W Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  Went by TSH in MPK today. Police tape marking of f line. Line across all of front of building. Parking impossible, please tell me that wasn't all for mooncakes. I'll try again before closing time tonight.

                  1. re: JThur01

                    My co-worker mentioned that there was some sale this weekend at TSH (on small electrics, etc.), so that's probably what the line was for.

                    1. re: lileor

                      The line formed for the section of the store that features herbs and boxes of mooncakes. Unless they were sorting the crowd out that way. Fortunately, it was fairly easy in and out late afternoon/early evening.

                      1. re: JThur01

                        And ... did you buy and/or like any thing you got?

                        Or are you doing a piece for the LAWeekly? If so, I wait with bated breath.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Actually, most of the samples were quite good. A mung bean one was overwhelmingly sweet, far sweeter than any Chinese dessert item I've ever had. One of the sample ladies was kind enough to slice one open for my to photograph.

                          I bought a few on the cheap, including some minis at I Fu Tang, but I haven't had a chance to sample them yet as other deadlines loom. Look for something on the 12th, but it will be a basic overview along the lines of explaining what they are to those not familiar with them.

                          1. re: JThur01

                            If the mung beans ones were sweet, then the sample you got was subpar. Mung bean mooncakes are not supposed to be sweet. In fact, most mooncakes should not be overwhelmingly sweet.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I've had some mung bean ones in the past, and have noticed that. For that matter, none of the other samples were even half as sweet. That mung bean stood out, but not in a good way. Subpar is a polite way to put it.

                              *note: it was a different sample lady that sliced open a traditional double yolk, lotus seed paste cake for me to photo (I kind of merged that above, due to fatigue)

                              1. re: JThur01

                                Please link us to the article, would be interested in reading it.

                                1. re: K K

                                  The article is up...

                                  http://bit.ly/r9fI1G

                                  Thanks all for the assistance and please be gentle with me :-)

                                  1. re: JThur01

                                    Is that "pig" what I think it is in your pic below, Jim?

                                     
                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      I don't know, what do you think it is?

                                      The lady at the booth saw me snapping photos and called me over, slicing a fresh one open for me.

                                      1. re: JThur01

                                        No idea of the filling, but that's a pretty cool pig shaped mooncake. Although it looks more like a guinea pig than a piglet. I've seen goldfish shaped mooncake, but not a piggy.

                                          1. re: K K

                                            Nice! I'm not sure what the filling is in the pig mooncake in the photo, but Tak Shing Hong had ones with mung bean filling.

                                      1. re: raytamsgv

                                        Thanks Ray. I just tried to do an overview, maybe next year I can get more specific.

                                        1. re: JThur01

                                          I liked your piece better than SF Weekly's

                                          http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2011...

                                          which had some coverage, but mostly Cantonese and predictable choices (and maybe not the best).

          2. The general rule is that the big Chinese supermarkets tend to carry a wide variety of brands, including imports from Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and Taiwan. The problem is that they tend to be dated and not necessarily that great. Hong Kong's best known old brand, Wing Wah, out of Yuen Long, can be ok for one box, but this year it may be overly sweet and disgusting. The brand out of Guangzhou China that also opened Lin Heung Tea House in Hong Kong might be interesting, but it is still an import. The wackier modern mooncakes (snowskin) made with glutinous rice, with a texture of ice cream mochi, will be found in the freezer section of most Chiense supermarkets (Maxim being a popular brand but if you will cringe when you see the ingredients list)...but maybe worth trying once....whether it be durian, coffee, mango pomelo sago.

            Perhaps a local tried and true bakery (Chinese, Cantonese or Taiwanese) might be a better bet with freshness, especially if they make it themselves.

            Not sure if all Kee Wah Bakeries are created equal but I was at one of the newer Northern California locations today and saw almost 15 varieties of Cantonese style mooncakes, all savory bordering on traditional styles. Prices range from a box in the $20s to high $40s (those have quad salted yolks inside). The ones like Jing Hua Chinese ham and mixed nuts go for about $8 individiually.

            10 Replies
            1. re: K K

              Thanks KK. Hmmm, mango pomelo sago...definitely modernistic. Any specific bakery recommendations?, particularly for individual mooncakes?

              1. re: JThur01

                My advice would be to go visit 2 big supermarkets (pick the biggest 99 Ranch and a worthy local competitor that's more Cantonese in nature if possible), check their tin mooncake imports from TW/Singapore/China/Hong Kong, as well as the freezer section, just so you can see for yourself what is out there.

                Then hit up the best Kee Wah location/branch and if you happen to be in Irvine, 85 C. If you are still interested in Taiwanese mooncakes, then check out equivalent competitors in SGV...unfortunately I have no clue which ones are the best these days over there....maybe something like JJ Bakery? The last thing to do would be to hunt down a Cantonese Hong Kong style bakery that delivers in quality close to that of Kee Wah (unless there is a better one that I am not aware of) for a final comparison before you take the plunge. Kee Wah won't have ice skin/snowy mooncakes, but if I were to buy some old school yet somewhat eclectic mooncakes in SGV, I'd likely visit a Kee Wah to start for individual and tins. You might find Kee Wah brand tins at your local supermarket, but they won't have all 12 to 15 varieties for sure.

                1. re: K K

                  Does the new 85C in Hacienda Heights have mooncakes?

                  1. re: Peripatetic

                    http://www.85cafe.us/

                    says that mooncake giftboxes have sold out. I would highly advise calling any location before going.

                    1. re: K K

                      Here's what the 85 C giftboxes look like in Taiwan

                      http://www.85cafe.com/html-c/20110912...

                      Box A:

                      2 of each:

                      1) taro, egg yolk, mochi
                      2) red bean, egg yolk, meat floss, walnut
                      3) red bean, red wine, yogurt, black sesame
                      4) green bean, pork, dried fried shallots

                      Box B has versions containing some sort of Taiwanese veg/herb, chestnut, osmanthus + oolong, black bean + brown (black) sugar + bean paste + mochi.

                      They all look great as any of the best Taiwanese mooncakes I've had from Taipei.

                      Here's another blog writeup

                      http://yuyududu45.pixnet.net/blog/pos...

                      Looks super elegant, modern, yet retains old schoolness.

                      My guess is that these could be imported from TW, sold at 85 C overseas locations rather than made locally (could be wrong about that though). If they are indeed sold out like the website says, then better reserve/buy it ahead of time next year...

                  2. re: K K

                    KK, ipse. Thanks for your posts to this thread. Went in the markets and was overwhelmed. I've never been in one of the markets the week of the Mid-Autumn festival, so it was quite an eye opener. On the end of every aisle, or the entire "sale" section, with women giving out samples of various brands, types. Wow!

                    ipse, sorry...I neglected to pick you up a box for your assistance. I hope you don't mind :-)

                    1. re: JThur01

                      I first noticed supermarkets stocking piles of imported mooncakes at least 2 weeks ago, which would have been the best time to pick one up for personal consumption (rather than waiting this week or next while it ages, some quicker than others). It is a good thing you encountered samples....the NorCal 99 Ranches and competitors up here are too cheap to do that at times (and rather not risk it).

                      1. re: K K

                        After tomorrow do the supermarkets have big close-outs on leftover boxes of mooncakes? Any discounts at bakeries? Can one pick up aging mooncakes on the cheap?

                        1. re: JThur01

                          Yes. The markets will definitely have discounts.

                          I remember one year Hong Kong had a "Spend over $20 on groceries, get a free box of mooncakes" deal going on past Halloween. Guess all the kiddies in San Gabriel must've got mooncakes during their trick-or-treat jaunts.

                          Bakeries won't have sales. Most, if not all, probably will have stopped making them by mid next week unless it's by special order.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Thanks ipse, I realize it seems painfully obvious, but since I've yet to be in the markets immediately after the festival, I wondered. Trick or treat? I guess they went from being like fruitcakes to being like candy corn in that instance.

                            And, d'oh on me about the bakeries, also rather obvious.

              2. i've been liking the ones at I Fu Tang since i found the branch in rh by curry house last year. i like that they have small ones in pinapple and green tea. i seem to be able to stomach the small ones better than trying to finish off big ones.

                i'd love to branch out and try more places but it's a matter of time, money, knowledge, taste, and allergies. i'm definitely going to keep in mind those mentioned here.

                but, if you don't mind, my go-to place every year has been van's bakery for vietnamese mooncakes. i always want at least one, but when i go in, maybe more like 5 or 6+... i don't really know who else makes those soft kinds. they carry the traditional brown ones too. sadly, i think pineapple is the only small sized one and they don't make green tea stand alone anymore either (with egg)

                1. Believe it or not, the Costco Stores in New Jersey are selling Mooncakes in red tin boxes. Anyone in California seen them in your stores? I did not check them out, but I did do a double take while walking past them. I'll have to look closer next time I'm there....or purchase a box out of curiosity,

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: fourunder

                    All the Costco stores in Southern CA have had mooncakes now for sometime. Probably been in stores for about a month. It's a regular item around this time of the year.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I've been a member of Price Club/Costco for over 20 years......this is the first year I have seen them in New Jersey.....any opinions if they are any good?

                      1. re: fourunder

                        As I mentioned up thread (here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8050...) the Costco mooncakes are quite good, and perhaps "the best" if you consider quality/cost ratio.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I cannot believe I missed that...thanks.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I was in Costco this morning.......no more Mooncakes.

                    2. The ladies at Dean Sin World make an absolutely delicious savory Shanghai style mooncake. We had one warm out of the oven yesterday.

                      Wonderfully tender, moist yet flaky crust with equally moist, flavorful minced pork inside. The shape of a small hockey puck, though ipse, you'd never mistake them for one :)

                      She's aware that sweet mooncakes are the de facto standard in the San Gabriel Valley so she's made a distinct effort to make hers differently (though these savory mooncakes are traditional in Shanghai.) I encourage all of you to support her efforts, particularly because this is the only time of year you'll be able to eat them Try to get them fresh. They're really delicious.

                      Mr Taster

                      -----
                      Dean Sin World
                      306 N Garfield Ave # 2, Monterey Park, CA

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        You can get savory mooncakes aplenty in prepackaged boxes at most markets.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Not fresh ones warm out of the oven... I've had savory prepackaged ones (in Taiwan) and these were on a whole different level.

                          Mr Taster