📜 A short history of mooncakes and how to make them
The mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important festivals in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore and is also celebrated as a harvest festival by the Chinese and Vietnamese people. It is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with full moon at night that in reality corresponds to late September or early October of the Gregorian calendar -the night of the full moon. Mooncakes are the quintessential treat of the Festival. Round shaped to look like a full moon, they are a symbol of the togetherness of the whole family. They are commonly eater in small pieces or wedges with tea.
They are composed of two parts, the pastry exterior, also known as the “skin” and the filling. The skin is made with flour, golden syrup, alkaline water, and lard or cooking oil. The dense, sweet filling is usually made from lotus paste or red bean paste. The paste can often contain egg yolk that is a symbol of the harvest moon and a sign of good fortune. There are many varieties in China and Hong Kong. One of the most popular one is the no-bake moon cake in Hong Kong. The pastry exterior is wrapped around the filling, and then pressed into a pretty mold before it goes into the oven.
At WD, we didn’t try to make the mooncake recipe. Maybe because it is so complicated and requires advanced ingredients that they may only be available in Asian markers or online. But we did our research and we found the most detailed and nicely descriptive mooncake recipes in the blogsphere so you can get ideas and even decide to make them yourselves.
📝🥮Great Mooncake recipes
Chef Martin Yan offers his recipe of Lotus Seed Paste with Salted Duck Yolks mooncakes. He claims that “the salted duck egg yolk and the sweet creamy lotus seed paste is very pleasantly balanced and wonderfully tasty”. Click here to find everything you need.
The Hong Kong cookery blog from Hong Kong had published a long recipe with an even longer explanation and instructions. They use salted duck egg yolks for the recipe, golden syrup and lye water. It’s the Lotus Paste Double Yolk Mooncake recipe here.
If you want some healthier, try the Snowskin mooncakes. Chilled and not baked, this lighter version of the signature Autumun-Festival treat, is made with cooked glutinous rice flour, rice flour and wheat starch without golden syrup and lye water. The Snowskin mooncakes have been invented reportedly in Hong Kong or Singapore in the 60s and traditionally eaten with a cup of tea.
Here is a recipe the Singaporean Cold Snowskin mooncakes with a Matcha Mung Bean Filling:
You will find plenty of interesting recipes in following site including a Vietnamese version of the Snowskin Mooncakes and others.
The Malaysian Pandan Snowskin Mooncakes are slightly different than the traditional Snowskin ones. They are better served steamed; you can store the raw cakes in an air tight container for three days and steam before serving them. The author has an amazing idea: pan fry the leftovers in a non-stick pan so they can be crispy! Find the recipe with instructions here
As you see, there are plenty of versions to play around if you wish. The recipe is not easy and also not…healthy. Mooncakes can contain up to 800 calories each so eat them in moderation and only as a treat!
🥮🌕Where do mooncakes come from? The tales have their say
Rumors have it that the origin of mooncakes started with the Tang Dynasty. Many Chinese poets were inspired by the moon and wrote lunar-themed poems. The emperors worship to the Moon Goddess, Chang’e and offered fruits and pastries. Following them, the citizens also started to pray to the Moon for a good harvest.
The tale says that there were ten suns at the time so the earth so very hot and difficult to live. The archer Yi killed nine of them leaving one Sun and therefore was given the elixir of immortality as a reward. He did not drink it straight away, but let his wife Chang’e keep it with her. However, Chang’e had to drink it herself to avoid giving it to her husband’s aggressive student who wanted it, then flew toward the heavens, and chose the Moon as residence. Yi discovered what happened, so since then he started to offer fruits and cakes that Chang’e had liked.
A different folktale says that eating mooncakes originated during the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century, ruled by the Mongols. The Han people wanted to rebel against them so distributed mooncakes to the Chinese residents with a piece of paper in each mooncake saying: Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month. They succeeded and the Mind Dynasty came to power.
In China, mooncakes now have become rather commercial. As packaging is exquisite, mooncakes can be rather expensive. High-end boxes decorated in silver or gold contain mooncakes that are stuffed with luxury ingredients like caviar and abalone. You can find these luxurious boxes in top-rated hotels that cater for the wealthy families and business people. In addition to hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries sell them just before the day bringing an estimated $2 billion in revenue.
🥮🛒Where to buy mooncakes in the USA
All Asian markets typically sell them a few weeks before the holiday which this year falls on Friday, September 29, 2023.
The Taiwanese 85°C Bakery Café offers online ordering between 8/18 – 9/20 with special offers. They are also available in their stores. This year’s specials include: 85°C Cantonese Style Mooncake Gift Box, 85°C Royalty Mooncake Gift Box, and 85°C Taiwanese Style Mooncake Gift Box.
Hong Kong Kee Wah bakery since 1938 offers mooncakes online as well. You can pick up at their store if you live in Southern California.
Amazon.com offers a variety of mooncakes from various vendors including the Joy Luck Palace Double Yolk Moon Cakes. Click here to see various offerings.
Most local Asian markets and bakeries make and sell mooncakes before the Moon Festival so if you live in a metropolitan area you are lucky and will definitely find some.
And if you want to indulge, check out the mooncakes from the Yun House at Four Seasons Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The Snowskin mooncakes include indulgent flavors such as bird’s nest with almond cream, musang king durian and brandy chocolate.
Finely, Vietnamese pastry brand Bakes got inspired from the moon’s reflection on a lake to create their packaging. The design is unique with bright colors and the illustrations reimagine the story of each flavor wrapping around the cylinder-like pack. Take a look below:
Did you like this A short history of Mooncakes and how to make them article? Do you want to read more stories about Chinese desserts? Read this article