Mooncake, Phase 3 (Homemade Fillings)

As part of this year’s epic mooncake saga, I’ve decided that nothing beats homemade fillings when it comes to taste and quality. Store-bought fillings are usually very sweet, sometimes not thick enough, and more often than not, they are not fragrant. However, I must admit the lotus nut paste that you can find at Asian grocers in Melbourne is quite good, thank goodness. But still, it’s not as fresh and fragrant in lotus nuttiness as homemade paste.

Mooncake Filling 1
Store-bought dark lotus paste

The concept for cooking these fillings is simple: blend the softened beans/nuts and then cook it with water, oil and sugar till it becomes a mouldable paste. My main difficulty with making these fillings from scratch is blending the ingredients smoothly enough. My tip would be to blend everything once through, and then blend it all again.

The other issue I’ve encountered is knowing when to stop cooking. I think the paste is about to be ready when it starts to leave the sides of the wok. At this point, keep cooking until the paste loses its swampy feel and becomes a really thick blob that can swivel in the wok as a whole unit without sticking. Firmer paste is easier to work with.

The amount of oil and sugar used determines how smooth and glistening the final paste becomes. This means healthier pastes with less oil and sugar will end up looking duller with a less optimal mouth feel. So if the paste starts looking really dull during cooking, maybe too much oil has been fried away, add more oil. If the paste starts looking dry and crumbly, too much moisture has been lost, add water. Keep adjusting and cooking till you attain the right consistency.

Mooncake Recipe 01

First batch of mooncakes with homemade lotus paste – the filling was firm and crumbly. I re-cooked the remaining paste with added oil and water and got a much better texture.

When making your own fillings, you can also control the sweetness. This is useful for snowskin mooncakes, where the skins are so sweet that you may want to reduce sugar in the filling. The recipes posted here have been adapted to contain less sugar to suit my lighter taste buds. You can adjust the sugar levels to suit your taste, but remember that the paste will taste sweeter once cooled.

Mooncake Filling Lotus Paste Recipe 00
Dried lotus seeds, skin off

Isn’t it amazing that you can make lotus paste from these nuts? I have a little advice for you. Lotus seeds can also be bought with their brown skins still on. Avoid avoid that, because you’ll need to blanch the nuts and manually remove the skins. Also, try to buy lotus seeds that have been cored, you can tell because the centre is empty. If it contains a green centre, you’ll have to manually remove the cores because the green centres are bitter.

On a side note, the recipes here tends to produce fillings that are somewhat difficult to shape and wrap. If you want a paste that’s easier to handle, then set aside about 40g of oil and make a batter by stirring in 40-50g of wheat starch. Add that batter mid-way through cooking, after the paste has thickened to some extent. The wheat starch batter produces a paste that’s slightly glutinous to the bite, and the reason why it isn’t in my recipe is because I didn’t like the resultant texture.

Mooncake Saga:

Mooncake, Phase 1 – Birth of project
Mooncake, Phase 2 – Homemade sugar syrup and salted duck eggs
Mooncake, Phase 3 – Homemade Fillings
Traditional Mooncakes – Recipe
Snowskin Mooncakes – Recipe

Lotus Seed Paste

makes approx. 1.3kg paste
.
400g dried lotus seeds (skin off and cored)
1L water
225g caster sugar
300g peanut oil

1tbsp maltose

  • Wash the lotus seeds and add to a pot with the water
  • Boil for 1 hour until the seeds are soft and cooked through
  • Without draining the cooking water, blend the lotus seeds until smooth. You may have to add more water into the blender to facilitate blending.
  • Heat a non-stick wok, melt 100g sugar over low heat until it’s light golden in colour
  • To make darker lotus seed paste, caramelise all the sugar in the previous step until it’s a darker golden colour
  • Add lotus paste, oil and rest of the sugar and cook over medium-high heat until it thickens, stirring constantly
  • Add maltose when the mixture has thickened
  • Bring to low-medium heat and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the lotus paste leaves the sides of the wok
  • Allow to cool, then wrap in air-tight plastic
  • Store in refrigerator or freezer if not using within 3 days

Mooncake Filling Lotus Paste Recipe 02
Lotus nuts after it’s cooked soft

Mooncake Lotus Paste Recipe 01
Adding in maltose | Paste starting to leave sides of the wok

With one batch of lotus paste, I tried substituting 25% of the oil with pork lard. Lard is meant to give optimum mouth feel. But I found it also gave a very porky smell to the paste and I didn’t like it. If you still want to use lard, I’d say try a ratio of 10%.

Adzuki Red Bean Filling

makes approx. 1.2kg paste

450g adzuki red beans
315g peanut oil
200g caster sugar

  • Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl
  • Drain, place in large pot and fill with water until beans are barely covered
  • Boil for 45mins, or until the beans have softened
  • Without draining, blend the beans until smooth
  • Add beans, sugar and oil into a non stick wok
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously
  • Paste is ready when it leaves the side of the wok and is quite thick
  • Allow to cool, then wrap in air-tight plastic
  • Store in refrigerator or freezer if not using within 3 days

Mooncake Red Bean Paste Recipe 01
Soaking the beans

Mooncake Red Bean Paste Recipe 02Mid-way through cooking…

Black Sesame Filling

makes approx. 1.2kg paste

300g adzuki red beans
150g black sesame seeds
250g caster sugar
300g peanut oil

  • Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl
  • Drain, place in large pot and fill with water until beans are barely covered
  • Boil for 45mins, or until the beans have softened
  • Without draining, blend the beans until smooth
  • Meanwhile, dry fry the black sesame seeds over low heat until fragrant
  • Pound or blend the sesame seeds until smooth
  • Add beans, sesame seeds, sugar and oil into a non stick wok
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously
  • Paste is ready when it leaves the side of the wok
  • Allow to cool, then coat with thin layer of oil and wrap in air-tight plastic
  • Store in refrigerator or freezer if not using within 3 days
Mooncake Black Sesame Paste Recipe 01
Black sesame seedsMooncake Black Sesame Paste Recipe 02
I didn’t pound the seeds quite finely, so the mixture is a little coarse this time

Mooncake Chestnut Paste Recipe 01

Lastly, I had a go with chestnut filling. To date, I’m not sure whether the paste’s meant to be just pure chestnuts, or a mixture of chestnut and lotus paste. Either way, I shouldn’t have bought the chestnuts whole, they’re horribly hard to peel! If you’d like to try making this filling, I recommend buying the chestnuts already cooked and peeled (or maybe the dried chestnuts). Also, chestnuts contain lots of natural sweetness. So start off with very little sugar, then add to taste.

Mooncake Saga:

Mooncake, Phase 1 – Birth of project
Mooncake, Phase 2 – Homemade sugar syrup and salted duck eggs
Mooncake, Phase 3 – Homemade Fillings
Traditional Mooncakes – Recipe
Snowskin Mooncakes – Recipe