SINGAPORE - Eating seasonal foods has helped defined (to a markedly large extent, no less) the gist of eating well. Ingredients in season not only imply freshness but also a natural state of excellence, assuming they were in fact farmed and harvested appropriately. And unlike the credulous culinary practices that tend to accompany age-old traditions - a baked ode to a moon goddess, notwithstanding - there are also celebrated foods of the season that honour, as they should, a good harvest.
Still, mooncakes are an indispensable delicacy of the Mid-Autumn celebrations, a particularly important Chinese festival that is often affectionately referred to as the Mooncake Festival for obvious reasons.
That being said, it is never just about these double-yolk or snow-skin teatime treats. The season's "special foods" shared chef-owner Yong Bing Ngen of Majestic Restaurant is a more diverse array, as featured in special set menus, available at select restaurants. They include wild yam, pomelo, yuzu, pear, and lotus root, Chinese wine and Chinese yam. Familiar ingredients, for sure, though no less noteworthy. "They are enjoyed (at this time) as they are harvested at their best quality during the autumn season," Yong affirmed. "These foods also have health and medicinal properties and the Chinese believe that it is important to nourish and condition the body during the autumn season."
There are, of course, more delectably significant reasons, like exploiting the citrus qualities of pomelo and yuzu to whet the appetite and aid digestion. Yong uses these in a fruit salad starter in the aforementioned mid-autumn menu offered at Majestic Restaurant.
Lotus root, he added, is held in high esteem for its health benefits. "The weather during the autumn season tends to be dry, so taking lotus relieves 'heatiness' and has a calming effect.
It is also an excellent source of vitamin C and dietary fibre, and many believe it helps reduce blood cholesterol and relief constipation. Admittedly, these are not the most drool-worthy reasons to chew on. But it doesn't hurt to consider the potential either.
Pear, he continued, is "light and refreshing" and, as such, has a cooling effect and helps clear toxins in the body.
That is not to say mooncake consumption should be tampered. Low-sugar alternatives are indeed worth considering. And enjoying them with Chinese tea like moooncakes should be does present a few other healthful advantages, which could make that extra slice worth a real consideration. Picking the right tea is central, and Si Chuan Dou Hua's "executive tea connoisseur" He Zheng Hong recommends two premium teas offered at the restaurant's adjoining Tian Fu Tea Room. The shi er hong nian from the Mengding Mountain in the Sichuan province is a red tea that carries and complements the moderately sweet flavours of mooncakes. It is also said to be a calming tea that can in addition help relieve a cough.
The other variety from the same province is a green tea dubbed the tian fu xiu ya. And like most green teas, its purported benefits are tied to its rich source of antioxidants.
Sure, you can enjoy it any day of the year that you please. But tying it to a feast worthy of some of the most enduring affirmations of the moon's gravitational sway is way more satisfying.
Chilli lobster, Prima Tower.
Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant's Mid-Autumn Festival Special Set Menu comprises many of the restaurant's top sellers. Whether you're craving the shredded scallop and fish and egg white, or the tempting chilli lobster, finishing with its candied mashed potato with rice pudding is recommended.
Available until Sept 30 for both the eight-course lunch and dinner at a promotional price of S$498 for 10 persons with a complimentary box of mooncakes. Call 6272 8822 / 6272 8988 to enquire or make a reservation.
Baked rock salt chicken in Chinese wine, Majestic Restaurant.
Majestic Restaurant's mid-autumn festival special is a six-course set menu, filled with healthful savouries and a delectably cool finish. Highlights include double-boiled supreme soup with meatballs, snow fungus and almond, served in a hollowed pear. Mains include a dish of South African abalone cooked with truffle and served with glutinous rice and lotus root, and baked rock salt chicken in Chinese wine. Dessert is a combination of homemade Chinese yam ice cream with osmanthus flowers accompanied by a "flavour of the day" snow skin mooncake.
Available at S$88 a person (minimum 2 persons) from Sept 15 to 30 for lunch and dinner. Call 6511 4718 for enquiries or to make a reservation.
Cassia at Cappella Singapore is also dishing out their version of an exclusive mid-autumn festival menu, six courses to be precise, with a choice between a poached sliced Australian lamb cooked Szechuan style and a Chilean sea bass steamed with fermented beans for the main course. Other delicacies to note include a doubled-boiled abalone soup with porcini and guinea fowl. A fragrant steamed almond cream with egg white and hasma is the chosen dessert to finish.
Available until Sept 30 for lunch and dinner at S$128 a person. Receive a complimentary box of baked mooncakes when dining in a group of minimum four guests.
Paradise Group traditional mooncakes with box.
One Paradise is the catering arm of the Paradise Group. And this mid-autumn season, they are offering two party sets: A Majestic Moon Pack (S$278) and a Divine Moon Pack (S$258). Each features eight dishes and assorted baked mooncakes for 10 to 12 persons, with the former flaunting a dish of wok-tossed river shrimp in Gan Xiang sauce, its signature buttered chicken, as well as steamed fish fillet cooked with Seafood Paradise's distinctive chilli crab sauce.
Available until Sept 30 (last day to place an order is Sept 27). Call 6465 6565 to place one, or visit www.oneparadise.com.sg for more details.