Disclosure: I was invited to dine in Silks as a guest.
I'm honestly so grateful that although I have rather liberal Asian parents, that there was also a fair amount of tradition and that I have been brought up celebrating the many different festivals that the Chinese celebrate and of course, get to enjoy all the food that comes with it.
One such one, that is coming up very soon, is the Mid-Autumn festival that is celebrated in both China and Vietnam, which celebrates the harvest during autumn, which this years falls on the 19th of September.
The legend behind the festival has some variations, but the basic one tells of a hero, Hou Yi, in ancient times who shot down nine of ten suns in the sky (which was creating a disaster for the people) and was rewarded by an immortal with a pill of immortality.
As Yi didn't want to leave his wife Chang'e, he left the pill with her for safe keeping. However, when Yi went hunting one day, for one reason or another (one story says she was jealous, another says someone tried to steal the pill) Chang'e swallowed the pill and flew into the sky, and made residence on the moon. Yi was so sad, that he displayed cakes and fruits in his yard as sacrifices to his wife, which the locals picked up shortly as well out of sympathy.
As a child, when I lived in Hong Kong, the Mid-Autumn festival meant we would create (and also buy) pretty lanterns in the shapes of different animals, made with wire, paper and cellophane (for some reason I remember that these were often pink), pop candles in the middle and parade around with the kids who lived in the same apartment block and look up at the full moon.
Another famous feature of the Mid-Autumn festival, is the traditional mooncake, a delicious and sweet pastry crust usually wrapped around a rich red bean or lotus seed paste filling, although they are getting more and more creative in more recent times! Although not difficult to make, they are a labour of love, requiring two rounds of baking (as if you bake for too long, the filling gets too soft and will fall in on itself), amongst other things. They also signify the gathering of the family at home (although I've also heard that they were used for propaganda against the Mongols!).
Since moving to Australia, it's a little sad not to see the lanterns pop up as colourful beacons in the night, fun and animated flickers of light against a black stage.
So I was excited to be invited to Silks in Crown, with a group of bloggers, to sample the Mid Autumn festival banquet, as part of Crown's own Mid-Autumn/Mooncake Festival (from the 9th to the 22nd of September), created by Executive Chef Tsang Chiu King.
We were treated to an absolutely sumptuous meal, and learnt that when you have two chopsticks on the table setting, one is for communal use with the dishes on the lazy susan, and one is for personal…the more you know!
Our meal started with plump and juicy steamed scallops, served on top of vermicelli and covered in garlic, which meant it was incredibly aromatic, on the nose and in the mouth. Scallops and garlic are a match made in heaven! I loved too that the steamed scallops gave it a rather clean texture.
A soup is important in any Chinese banquet, and ours was a cloudy double boiled chicken consomme with dried scallop and mushrooms. Although it sounds simple, it was just pure deliciousness. Just warms your soul.
The giant coral trout enrobed in minced shrimp just had the most beautiful presentation, just so incredibly playful, and it was well appreciated. Also great flavours and textures. Although the prawns were fried, they were quite light and the addition of a tiny bed of spring onions brought a refreshing flavour to the palate.
A delicate serve of sauteed lobster in black bean sauce and pine nuts had the table silent as we all tucked in, an excellent sign at a Chinese table as it clearly means everybody is just enjoying the food! It was lovely to see Chef Tsang have a light hand with the black bean sauce, accentuating the gorgeously sweet lobster rather than overpowering it. Conversation ensued about how odd it was that broccoli has been so well adopted by the Chinese, and whether or not members on the table also like cauliflower (I mean, they're pretty similar right?).
The diced beef tenderloin with mixed mushrooms in a gravy sauce, was so tender and moreish. The vividly red capsicum was gorgeously sweet. I know if this was on the lazy susan as a sharing dish, it's the sort that I would go back for seconds of…maybe even thirds!
A chicken fried rice in XO sauce, was a clean and simple rendition of an old favourite. Whilst it didn't have the 'wow' factor that the other dishes did, it was incredibly comforting and I loved that the rice had a yellow sheen from all the egg in it. Yummo.
Between our savoury and sweet courses, Chef Tsang came out to smile and pose for pictures, with a translator answering our questions. He's been at Crown for only about 6 months, but comes with plenty credentials, previously earning two Michelin stars at Ming Court in Hong Kong.
The first of our sweets was a sweetened walnut soup with dumplings. Let's be honest, not sexy to look at, but totally delicious. The use of walnuts instead of peanuts made this soup a little less rich and a touch sweeter and the glutinous rice balls were filled with black sesame. Um. Yum.
And of course, to top it all off, mooncakes! While Chef Tsang is still working on the recipe for the mooncakes to be made in house, we were served the very popular Wing Wah mooncakes from Hong Kong, with a lotus paste and the all important salted egg yolk (which is supposed to be a reflection of the moon).
If you haven't had the opportunity to try mooncakes, and would like to partake in some, Crown will be holding it's inaugural Mooncake festival, with something for everybody from the 9th to the 22nd of September. You can splash out and try the gorgeous banquet I sampled above, or you could explore Crown's Atrium, which will temporally transform into an Asian market, where there will be mooncake making demonstrations, a Chinese seal carver working his magic with jade and marble and a variety of other activities. I'm looking forward to the fireworks on the 21st along the river (because what's a Chinese festival without fireworks now?). Want to know more? Check on the schedule here!
8 Whiteman Street