the shoot out between the 5 mooncakes - from anti-clockwise and on top, 1. Shang Palace, 2. Li Yen, 3. Westin, 4. Lai Poh Heen, 5. Dynasty
No mooncake festival will be complete without a little touch of local flavour. Feared by some for its pungent taste but revered by many for its creaminess, the durian or its more lofty title as "king of the fruits" is a popular flavour in snowskin mooncakes. Durian paste is mixed with lotus paste and encased in snowskin that is usually left plain or even flavoured with a little durian. Lai Poh Heen at Mandarin Oriental Hotel also does a divine sounding chocolate encased mooncake filled with durian ganache. Sadly, I didn't get an opportunity to sample it, since it was sold out the day I did my mooncake shopping. Having eaten the delectable pairing of chocolate and durian, I can imagine it to be a match made in heaven - the bitter taste of cocoa balancing out the creaminess of the durian.
the very fragrant Westin durian fantasy
Visually the assortment of durian snowskin mooncakes are in the natural white colour or yellow ranging from a lemon yellow to the palest yellow. Dynasty and Lai Poh Heen kept theirs natural white, while the others are in various shades of yellow.
a little too much oil
The snowskin mooncakes from Dynasty seem to be suffering from one major problem that marred the taste of their selection - the paste is not cooked enough or left for too long until it is too oily once you cut them. Weirdly enough, their durian mooncake hardly tasted like durian at the first bite that I thought the counter staff had mixed up my order. Later, after leaving it in the fridge for one day, did the durian flavour seem to develop.
In terms of taste, we were pleasantly surprised that the Westin's durian fantasy, which didn't appeal to me visually with its pale lemon yellow snowskin was the most fragrant. This could be because, unlike the other mooncakes that mixed durian flesh with lotus paste, their version only contained durian, custard powder, eggs, butter, milk powder, cream and flour as ingredients. However, we didn't quite like the soft texture of the snowskin - a quality that seemed to be prevalent in almost all of the Westin snowskin mooncakes.
For the others who mixed lotus paste with durian flesh, we felt the Shang Palace's version was a nice proportion, giving it a distinct durian taste yet not overpowering so to scare off your next blind date. Lai Poh Heen - famous for their durian pancakes delivered a pretty meek durian snowskin mooncake that would please someone like Bobby Chinn (who hates durian!) to bits. Similarly Li Yen's version is also very mild.
In terms of size, Shang Palace's version is the largest and the most pricey, selling at RM14 while Lai Poh Heen's version was the super mini of the whole lot. In conclusion, I would say - go for the Westin version if you absolutely love just durian and don't mind a very soft skin but Shang Palace wins my vote for the overall durian mooncake with lotus paste, with the right texture of snowskin.
Detailed below are the sizes and prices for the various mooncakes compared. Note that all prices are inclusive of service tax and these mooncakes can be obtained at the various hotels:
1. Shang Palace, Shangri-la KL Hotel - Size of 5x2.5cm for RM14
2. Dynasty, Renaissance Hotel - Size of 4.5x2.5cm for RM10.5
3. Li Yen, Ritz Carlton KL Hotel - Size of 4.5x2.5cm for RM8.5
4. Westin KL Hotel - Size of 4x2.5cm for RM13
5. Lai Poh Heen, Mandarin Oriental KL Hotel - Size of 4x2cm for RM11.55
*All these snowskin mooncakes are pork free