Ming Palace Restaurant and Mooncakes at Corus Hotel by Polly Szantor
I had a last-minute offer to join a group of food bloggers at Ming Palace Restaurant, and when the word DURIAN is included in the invitation, I just can’t say “no”. We were asked to review the Mooncakes, especially the durian varieties, so the wonderful dinner that preceded them was an unexpected bonus.
Ming Palace must be one of Kuala Lumpur’s best kept secrets. I had no idea that this rather unassuming hotel, known to me only as the terminus for the Aeroline Bus to Singapore, had such an excellent restaurant. The reason became obvious later when the chefs presented the Mooncakes. Executive Chef Ng, formally with the Equatorial Hotel, brings with him a wealth of experience and stunning recipes, while Chef Raymond Seow oversees the Dim Sum and Mooncakes.
Dinner began with Chicken and Cordycep Flower Herbal Soup. These special mushroom flowers are thought to have a host of health benefits including improving kidney and liver function, and reducing blood pressure, blood sugar and heart disease. Chinese Herbal Soup is not usually a favourite of mine, but this version won me over. Tender chicken sat in a rich broth and I enjoyed the chewy texture of the flowers. The soup was followed by 4 varieties of Dim Sum, each most delicious: Otak-Otak Siew Mai, an interesting take on a Malaysian classic, Steamed Dumplings Sichuan Style in a spicy vinegar sauce, Prawn Dumplings with Seaweed and Tofu Skin Roll with Shredded Scallop and Chicken.
Next came Sichuan Noodles with Prawns. These chewy noodles are made of mung bean and potato flour, with a texture quite unlike regular wheat or rice noodles. They were excellent.
Pipa Tofu with Apple Salad was new to me. The tofu is mixed with scallops, chicken and onion and formed into the shape of a pipa, a classical Chinese stringed instrument. It was served on a bed of crunchy, sweet-sour green apples in mayonnaise, creating a tasty and unusual combination.
The Crispy Chicken with Mango Thai Style was quite unlike the usual Thai Green Mango Salad. This version was more citrusy and a bit sweeter than the Thai variety. I’m not sure how the chef managed to maintain the crispy skin on the chicken, but it worked very well and created another winning arrangement.
The final savoury course, Pan-fried Dumplings with Shallots and Chives, also elicited appreciation from all. I had to stop myself from reaching for a second ball of tender, flaky pastry filled with mellow allium flavours. I knew I had to leave room for the pièce de résistance, the Mooncakes!
But there was one more treat in store, a palate-cleansing Chilled Ginger Jelly. Light and refreshing, this was the perfect segue to the jewels of the evening, the mighty Mooncakes.
The Corus Hotel is offering 10 varieties of Mooncakes this year, and I had the privilege of tasting seven of them. They have several traditional flavours such as Lotus Paste with Single Yolk, and my personal favourite made with seeds and nuts. There is also a low sugar version with white lotus paste. One of my companions pointed out the thin crust of these baked cakes, meaning more of the filling we so enjoy.
The more modern mooncakes are made with a soft skin and are fresh rather than baked, such as the Snow Skin Ying Yang Sesame. They're a little softer and more delicate than the more robust baked variety, but they're equally delicious.
The gold Medal winner in 2010 and 2011 was the Snow Skin D24 Durian Mooncake and new for 2012, is the latest edition to the repertoire, the Snow Skin Musang King Mooncake, my all-time favourite. These delicate, aromatic delights entice the nostrils and reward the tongue. Absolutely delectable! Please note that the snow skin varieties are fragile. They must be kept in the fridge and eaten within 2 days or they can be frozen.
Reason to visit: To experience a feast of flavours at Ming Palace Restaurant, and to taste the heavenly Durian Mooncakes.
Ming Palace is pork-free, and the restaurant is in the process of applying halal certification. For reservations please call 03-2160-5927/5988
For more information visit the hotel’s website: www.corushotelkl.com