As someone of Chinese descent, during my childhood, I used to spend a few days in September with my cousins at my grandparents’ house celebrating the mid-autumn festival. We’d play with sparklers, hang tanglungs (paper lanterns), and indulge in lavish family feasts and mooncakes.
But for Kimmy Woon and her family, September would mark the busiest month of the year for them as they prepped and sold their mooncakes to earn extra income. Unlike brands out there that sell traditional mooncakes filled with lotus paste, Kimmy’s family focuses on a delicacy that has grown in popularity over the years: jelly mooncakes.
Kimmy has been working with her mum and aunt on the business since she was 17. Even when she was studying in university, she would spend September nights around the table, helping her family make them by hand.
Now that she’s 34, with almost two decades of experience of making jelly mooncakes under her belt, she believes it is the right time to reinvigorate and rebrand the family business under a new name, Salt & Mould.
A rebrand after almost 2 decades
When we asked Kimmy about the inspiration behind the name, she said that it was actually inspired by the ingredients used in making their jelly mooncake.
“Salt & Mould is quite a catchy phrase and it can catch attention and also portray a modern brand image where we are planning to expand to sell more variety of home-based food instead of jelly mooncake,” said Kimmy, her sister Huey Sze, and friend Mavis, who both joined the team more recently.
Before the rebrand this year, the business was simply known as Homemade Jelly Mooncake since its inception in 2004. Admittedly, the name didn’t stand out too much, especially in the market filled with other homemade mooncake bakers and the likes.
When the business started, Kimmy’s mum and aunt brought her in to better understand the younger target market and to find ways to expand the business. Naturally, social media turned out to be a fruitful endeavour and it helped them bring in more customers outside of Kepong.
Now, 17 years later, she felt that the business required a new coat of paint, and in line with her visions for the business, Salt & Mould was born.
Far from traditional
Unlike regular and traditional mooncakes, jelly mooncakes are made with jelly and are usually filled with fruits and other common fillings. For Salt & Mould, they specialise in 8 common flavours: yam, kopi grass jelly, mango, red bean, passion fruit, cantaloupe, cendol gula melaka, and dragon fruit.
Currently, the mooncakes retail for RM78 for the “experience package” which includes all 8 flavours. Alternatively, you can opt for the “best seller package” for 6 flavours (without kopi grass jelly and dragon fruit) for RM68.
While they have experimented with other flavours such as corn and durian, these flavours can negatively impact a mooncake’s freshness, especially when they’re made without preservatives and fresh fruits. To help maintain their freshness, the mooncakes are individually vacuum-packed and sealed.
But this year, the team went the extra mile and introduced new packaging, replacing traditional mooncake boxes with cooler bags instead.
“It could help keep the freshness of the jelly mooncake, and also serve as an eco-friendly idea—where it’s reusable and people do not need to feel guilty because they’re throwing out mooncake boxes every year,” said the team. With these new changes, she believes their mooncakes can now remain fresh for more than 3 days in the fridge.
As for what goes into their mooncakes, they replied: “The whole mooncake is made purely of jelly and real fruits, but we won’t be sharing the secret recipe nor the process of making them.” To be fair to Kimmy, the recipe has remained in the family for almost two decades now, and she plans to keep it that way.
Coming and going with the season
Salt & Mould is a business that’s largely dormant for most of the year, only coming back to life about a month before the mid-autumn festival so the team can begin preparing orders. Thus, the team shared that it’s treated as a side income business. During the season, it’s a profitable business, but not by much.
Jelly mooncakes were probably once considered out of the ordinary, but now you can find them easily. Dozens of home businesses selling jelly mooncakes crop up each year with increasingly unique renditions.
Most jelly mooncakes in the market tend to use konjac jelly powder or agar powder which have firmer textures. But for Salt & Mould, they’ve stuck to doing what they do best, which is creating their own jelly mooncakes inspired by layered cake, as can be seen in the pictures above.
Kimmy said that her mum and aunty held many rounds of experiments to come up with a differently-textured jelly mooncake that had both a well-balanced flavour and a punchy taste at first bite.
Being that they’ve been operating for so long now, competition may not be the biggest worry on their mind. They’ve likely found a loyal following that returns to them each year, and the demand is more than enough to keep them afloat.
Currently, they’re producing an average of 300 handcrafted mooncakes a day, and they can make around 8,000 pieces in a month.
As mentioned earlier, Kimmy and her team plan to eventually expand Salt & Mould to be more than just a jelly mooncake business, and to cater more to the younger market. However, these are all just still in the planning stage, and for now, they will first continue selling jelly mooncakes.
Featured Image Credit: Salt & Mould