No matter if you opt for traditional Hong Kong mooncakes with lotus seed paste or the new generation of mooncakes with snowskin, nut fillings, fruit or chocolate, pairing them with the right beverages can either enhance the treat's taste or mask it entirely.
Depending on whether or not you're a fan of mooncakes, that might actually be a good thing, but for those who actually enjoy eating this Mid Autumn Festival snack and are in search of the perfect drink to match, we've found your best options.
1. Full-bodied sweet wines
"The diversity of mooncakes on the market make generalising about wine matches challenging," explains Debra Meiburg, master of wine, "but if there were one wine style I would favour for mooncakes, it is the sweet wine category."
"Savoury salty egg yolks, chewy pastry and sweet lotus paste are an elegant match with an aged Madeira, such as Bual," Meiburg continues. "The sweeter Malmsey style might also work, but probably best with sweet red-bean filling. I also highly recommend Australia's Rutherglen 'stickies'. Buller's Fine Old Tokay is also ideal."
Patrick Behrens, former F&B manager of Raffles The Plaza, agrees with Meiburg's assessment, telling AsiaOne.com that sweet foods like Hong Kong mooncakes saturate the taste buds and make sweet drinks taste less sweet, so it's best to start out with an even sweeter beverage.
Meiburg does point out that the full, red-fruit flavours of vintage ports might overwhelm a mooncake, so she suggests people try an aged tawny port, whose light nutty walnut and dried fruit flavours would compliment the savoury lard in Chiu-chow style mooncakes or mooncakes with ham, nuts or duck accented fillings.
"Sherry also would be a terrific match," says Meiburg. "It's fine acidity helps to offset the weighty pastries."
She recommends Amontillado with lighter mooncake fillings, such as lotus or melon seed.
As if we needed another excuse to pop open the bubbly, Otto Weibel, director of kitchen at Raffles The Plaza, suggests pairing chocolate Hong Kong mooncakes with Champagne.
"If the mooncake has a chocolate filling, pairing it with Champagne truly defines the richness of luxurious chocolate and the sweetness of the silky white lotus paste," he explains to AsiaOne.com.
3. Chinese tea
Chinese tea is by far the most popular choice when it comes to beverage pairing with mooncakes. Many experts like Junie Sng, Chinese operations manager for Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, believe that tea "helps to rid the stomach of the bloated feeling when one consumes rich, oily food."
According to the September 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens (Chinese edition), Cantonese-style Hong Kong mooncakes that are high in sugar and lower in oil pair best with a cup of tie guan yin tea, whereas flaky pastry mooncakes that are high in sugar and oil are best paired with a lightly scented cup of jasmine.
In the end, feel free to experiment with your own mooncake and beverage pairings, but don't be surprised if you don't get it right the first time.
"It's very difficult to match any alcoholic drinks with fermented food," says Weibl. "Various factors will influence the pairings as mentioned, such as the salted egg yolk, the level of sweetness of the different lotus paste variety as well as the other ingredients used."
If all else fails, we recommend eating the mooncake with nothing at all. That way, you'll get the most out of each sweet and sticky chew, and be able to savour the flavours in your mouth for even longer.
So, what's your beverage of choice to pair with Hong Kong mooncakes?