It was World Vegetarian Day yesterday, and I’m so glad to be celebrating with this blogpost!
It just so happens that this recipe also coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival is an ancient Chinese tradition that used to involve the offering of full-moon-shaped foods to the heavens in gratitude for a bountiful harvest, as well as providing an opportunity for families to reunite. Although the reunions have stayed prominent, the festival is now more commonly associated with lanterns and mooncakes: very dense cakes usually made with sweet lotus seed paste, covered in a thin skin of pastry. It sometimes features salted egg yolks in the center. The cakes are traditionally enjoyed together with a cup of hot Chinese tea.
Over the past fifteen years or s0, I’ve seen mooncakes evolve into a hot annual trend, trading lotus paste for custard or ice cream, brown pastry for pastel-coloured ‘snow skin’, and featuring all sorts of contemporary ingredients like matcha, exotic nuts, durian and even truffle!
One of the major issues, that people have with mooncakes these days, is how high they are in fat and sugar. One seemingly demure mooncake can easily come up to ONE THOUSAND CALORIES.
And to think that I used to scoff mooncakes down whole during my Shaolin training days in China. I think that will the only time in my life I’d be able to get away with that.
The guilt is far from called for in this recipe. It’s just jelly in the shape of mooncakes. And they’re super pretty too.
This recipe uses mooncake jelly molds which I found in a bakery shop.
I’ve married two complementing flavours: the fresh, floral burst of red dragonfruit, to serve as the base as well as the ‘yolks’, encased in a lemongrass pandan jelly.
My tribute to the moon is also represented by the deep midnight blue tone of the lemongrass pandan jelly. This is achieved with dried butterfly pea flowers. I get mine from my sister, Melanie, who sells these precious little things on her online shop Borneo Addict.
This recipe can also be made with agar jelly, although my personal preference is konnyaku, for its chewier consistency. It is extracted from the roots of the konjac plant, and is hailed for its high fibre content and having close-to-negligible calories. That means it fills you up, without fattening you up. This is the only occasion that I can make sense of the Savage Garden line, ‘I Knew I Loved You Before I Met You’.
Enjoy making these delicate jelly cakes for your Mid-Autumn celebrations, or any other day of the year with any other type of jelly mold!
And if by some mad reason you’re not convinced to make these yet, I’ve just found out something else.
I’ve pulled the jellies out of the fridge from two days of storage, and this is what has happened…
Brings tears to my eyes, really.
Moonlight Dragon Jelly Mooncakes
A fascinating combination of Southeast Asian herb, fruit and flower come together in these conversation-starting jellies in the shape of Mooncakes. Perfect to present as a gift for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Works just as well in plain bowls too!
- Moonlight layer:
- 600ml water
- 2 tsp konnyaku jelly powder
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 pandan leaves
- 2 lemongrass stems
- 8-10 dried butterfly pea flowers
- Dragonfruit layer and 'yolks':
- 1 large red dragonfruit
- 200ml water
- 1/2 tsp konnyaku powder
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- Step 1 Tie pandan leaves into two separate knots of two leaves. Twist lemongrass stems at different sections until they partially break.
- Step 2 For the Moonlight Layer, boil water with sugar, flowers, leaves and lemongrass, for 8-10 minutes. Strain all ingredients from water and bring water to a boil again. SLOWLY sprinkle in konnyaku powder, stir continuously for 5 minutes or until fully dissolved.
- Step 3 Pour moonlight layer into jelly molds until 3/4 full. Set molds aside.
- Step 4 Cut dragonfruit down the middle, then take one half and cut in half again to get a quarter slice. Blend this slice in a blender until it becomes a smooth puree.
- Step 5 With the remaining dragonfruit flesh, take a melon baller and scoop out eight balls. Place two into the centre of each jelly mold, while the Moonlight Layer is still hardening.
- Step 6 For the Dragonfruit Layer, boil water in a new pot with sugar and SLOWLY sprinkle in konnyaku jelly. Stir continuously for 3-4 minutes or until fully dissolved. Pour in dragonfruit puree and stir until even. Pour dragonfruit jelly layer into the molds, covering the dragonfruit balls and filling it up to the brim.
- Step 7 Refrigerate molds for at least 30 minutes. Remove jelly from molds by gently knocking one side of the mold upside down on a table or kitchen counter.
- Step 8 Serve immediately.