Johor Kaki Travels for Food

Singapore blog of true stories by johorkaki@gmail about best food, people & places around the world

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Last of Singapore's Artisanal Mooncake Makers. Hung Fai Food Enterprise 洪辉食品

During the annual Mooncake Festival, mooncakes are sold everywhere you turn. With mooncakes, mooncakes everywhere, it is hard to see that artisanal mooncake makers are disappearing in Singapore. Most mooncakes sold today are factory made.

Today, I met Chef Chan Hung Fai 陈洪辉 of Hung Fai Food Enterprise 洪辉食品 at his little workshop at Woodlands Loop - he is one of Singapore's last artisanal mooncake makers. Chef Chan was the OEM mooncake maker behind several famous hotel and restaurant brands during his heydays. Nowadays, more and more brands turn to OEM factories to make their mooncakes.

(OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer. It is a term originally used in the auto industry to describe manufacturers of generic car parts for brands.)

Chef Chan born in Dongguan in Guangzhou, China started working in 大官 restaurant in Hong Kong at age 16 in 1966. He apprenticed in the dim sum department and came to Singapore in 1974 to work in Golden Million restaurant in Peninsula Hotel as their dim sum chef. In 1979, Chef Chan moved to 新运楼 at the old National Stadium. At 新运楼, Chef Chan's responsibilities included making mooncakes and thus began his mooncake journey.

At Hung Fai Food Enterprise, Chef Chan's main product is egg noodles which he supplies to restaurants such as Noodle Place in 313 Orchard. Chef Chan learned how to make egg noodles from Chef Tang formerly the chef trainer of Crystal Jade. Chef Tang also hails from Guangzhou, China. There is a lot of mutual help and support among chefs from Hong Kong and Guangzhou working in Singapore.

Besides egg noodles and wanton skin, Chef Chan also makes seasonal food like nian gao 年糕 (sweet sticky rice cakes) during Chinese New Year, rice dumplings 粽子 during Dragon Boat Festival, mooncakes 月饼 during Mooncake Festival etc.

Chef Chan starts making mooncakes right after the Dragon Boat Festival in July as it is a long process. The first thing is to make the sugar solution for the lotus seed paste by boiling cane sugar. The sugar solution is allowed to sit for two months. It will ferment slightly giving the sweetness a slight tang.

Nowadays, Chef Chan uses only 70% of the amount of sugar he traditionally used as clients want low sugar mooncakes now. Reducing the amount of sugar used gives a less sweet mooncake (which I prefer) - Chef Chan uses only natural ingredients, never synthetic flavours or sweeteners (to substitute for sugar).

Next key ingredient is the lotus seed paste. Chef Chan makes lotus seed paste from scratch using good quality lotus seeds from Hunan 湖南 in China. The lotus seeds are cooked and mashed into a paste. It is then allowed to rest for 10 days so that the paste is further smoothed and blended together like a thick cream. The lotus seed paste is then blended together with 70% sugar solution and greased with peanut oil.

Chef Chan uses only lotus seeds to make his lotus seed paste. Some mooncake makers use lotus seed paste bulked up with kidney beans (which dilutes the lotus seed flavour and aroma).

Everything is made from scratch at Hung Fai Food Enterprise. The staff was sieving flour for making the dough for the mooncake skin.

Chef Tong Peng Chong helping out at Chef Chan's workshop. Chef Tong was the dim sum chef of Mayflower restaurant 五月花酒楼. In his 70s now and happily retired, the unassuming highly respected chef come out of retirement briefly to give his buddy a hand during the busy mooncake festival - such is the bond of brotherhood among chefs from HK and Guangzhou in Singapore.

Hung Fai makes traditional flavour mooncakes and packs them in no frills, plain Jane boxes. They are good for folks who appreciate old school flavour mooncakes.

My favourite mooncake flavour is the good old pure lotus seed paste 纯正白莲. The lotus seed paste is smooth and the natural lotus seed taste is mild. It is not overly sweet at all. The browned pastry skin is thin. (Price: $58 per box of 4 plus 1 box free.)

Lotus Paste with Double Salted Egg Yolk 双黄白莲. Same lotus seed paste with salted egg yolk providing a bit of complementary savouriness to the mild sweetness. (Price: $68 per box of 4 plus 1 box free.)

Five Nuts (Kernels) mooncake 五仁. Five types of nuts and seeds consisting of coarsely chopped pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, sesame seeds, walnut and almonds held together with maltose. Candied winter melon add a bit of layered sweetness. (Price: $70 per box of 4 plus 1 box free.)

Golden Ham 金腿. Same Five Nuts with bits of savoury sweet ham 火腿 in the mix. (Price: $80 per box of 4 plus 1 box free.)

Most of Hung Fai Food Enterprise's mooncakes are OEM for clients. Hung Fai house brand mooncakes are only sold through direct phone orders. If you like old school, traditional mooncakes in simple, no frills plain Jane packaging, call 📞 6759 0250 to order and arrange for delivery of your mooncakes.

Read about Leong Yin mooncake OEM based in Penang which supplies mooncakes to over 20 countries around the world 👈 click

Date visited: 11 Sep 2018

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  1. I phoned up only to be told they only home deliver for orders worth more thsn $200. I was given a whatsapp number to contact to collect mooncakes from their address in Woodlands Loop. No reply to my whatsapp query so far

    1. Aiyoh. I feel bad to hear about that. My apologies. It's a busy time but still they have to straighten out their processes. Thank you for your feedback.

    2. Thanks, Tony, for your answer. The mooncakes are very pricey by Johor Bahru standards. By the way, have you found any good mooncake shops selling good old fashioned mooncakes in Johor Bahru? Please share with us if you have.

  2. SGD ahh?? That's expensive even for Singaporeans leh.


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