Traditional handcrafted mooncakes at Wan Li

It’s the Mid-Autum Festival again and Wan Li Restaurant at the Renaissance Johor Baru Hotel is celebrating the season by presenting a range of handcrafted mooncakes.

A range of traditional baked mooncakes by Wan Li Restaurant
I’m at Wan Li for a media preview of these traditional pastries and I cannot wait to sample the mooncakes – which I guess – will be served as dessert after our lunch menu of Chinese dishes.

I thought it must be quite harrowing for Dim Sum Sous Chef, Go Yong Jia, to demonstrate the art of hand-making mooncakes under our watchful eyes, as cameras clicked and videos filmed.

But Chef Go remained focused on his task and hardly broke a sweat as he deftly moved around his work station to shape the pastries into traditional wooden moulds, aptly designed with an embossed rendition of the capital letter “R” for Renaissance Hotel, on top of the baked mooncakes.

As our non-Chinese media friends ask curious questions about the tradition of the Mid-Autumn Festival and how it is practiced here, my thoughts race back to childhood days when the family would gather for dinner in our Ah Kong or grandfather’s house.

Chef Go Yong Jia demonstrating the
art of handcrafted traditional mooncakes
However, mooncakes or the dinner menu were far from my thoughts because my fondest memories of this season must be playing with lanterns. It was that time of year when my cousins, siblings and I had permission to play in the dark!

I remember lighting up candles to stand them within paper lanterns and walking down the pitch-dark passage behind the bungalow and badminton court, where the lanterns glowed the brightest.

The looming tall bamboo fence that surrounded Ah Kong’s house at No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng, would cast menacing shadows and made our night adventure even more exciting.

There would be much jostling about in the dark and I recall that incident of a candle which was accidentally tilted against the side of a paper lantern and our shock to see how quickly the lantern went up in flames!

Most traditional Chinese homes would celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with a family dinner, not unlike the reunion dinner held on the eve of the lunar new year, and this year, the annual celebration on the lunar calendar coincides with October 4.

While the menu for the Mid-Autumn Festival may not be as elaborate or rich with auspicious ingredients, this reunion dinner will bring the family together again and mooncakes are significantly featured from the start to the end.

Chef Go presenting a variety of baked
mooncakes [Left] and snow skin mooncakes
It’s a tradition for families and friends to present each other with mooncakes and these are usually brought to the reunion dinner and presented to the host with pride.

After dinner, the family and guests will savour the mooncakes with sips of quality Chinese tea, usually set out in the porch or garden – under the glow of the full moon – and their conversation often includes exchanging anecdotes and legends about the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival!

Over the years, I observed how mooncake gift boxes were becoming more creative, elaborate and attractive. This is all good because I’m happy to keep the lovely boxes and recycle them for my own use!

Family members or friends who know which type of mooncake filling their host prefers, can pick from choices like Pure Lotus Paste, Lotus Paste with Single or Double Yolk and those filled with Assorted Dried Fruit and Nuts.

I’m familiar with these fillings in traditional baked mooncake varieties and my personal favourite is Pure Lotus Paste while my dad enjoyed the ones with fruit and nuts.

Close-up view of baked mooncake filled with
Green Tea with Single Yolk
Renaissance JB is taking a contemporary approach to the traditional baked and snow skin varieties of mooncake and have created trendy types of fillings to meet the tastes of modern mooncake connoisseurs.

In addition to the traditional fillings of Lotus Paste in the baked mooncakes, there are also choices like Jade Custard and Green Tea with Single Yolk.

While snow skin mooncakes are a relatively new creation for the Mid-Autumn Festival, it has gained popularity and the increasing choices of fillings is proof that it’s here to stay.

Some of the exciting flavours to choose from include Dark Chocolate Crunchy Pearl, Coffee Truffle, Taro Paste Truffle, Mango Paste Truffle, Green Tea Matcha Truffle, Passion Fruit Truffle, Peppermint Chocolate Truffle, Strawberry Truffle and the tempting taste of fresh durian in Durian Madness.

Pretty pastel coloured snow skin mooncakes, with a view
of the Durian Madness mooncake stuffed with fresh durian!
These handcrafted delicacies are made with natural ingredients with no preservatives and when the snow skin varieties are brought home, they should be kept refrigerated to preserve its quality.

I’m making a mental note of this important info as Chef Go presented a variety of baked and snow skin mooncakes for us to sample.

The snow skin varieties are distinguished by a range of pretty pastel colours like purple for Taro, green for Green Tea Matcha and pink for Strawberry but it is rather challenging to tell which shade of yellow is Mango or Passion Fruit.

It is however, very easy to spot which snow skin mooncake is stuffed with fresh durian because its pungent aroma preceded it!

These handcrafted mooncakes are exclusively available from Wan Li for a limited time – until Oct 4 – so rush over to enjoy Early Bird discounts before Sept 15.

A set of eight snow skin mooncakes is priced at RM108 nett and a set of four baked mooncakes cost RM98 nett only while the Durian Madness set of eight snow skin mooncakes is at RM168 nett.

Wan Li Restaurant [Pork-Free] is on the lobby level of the Renaissance Johor Baru Hotel, 2 Jalan Permas 11, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, 81750 Masai, Johor. 

For advance orders and enquiries, Tel: +607 – 381 3388 or email:

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