One of the long-standing traditions during the Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, in China, is to gaze at the moon, making Mid-Autumn lanterns and eating moon cakes. The pastries are tender, enveloping a sweet filling, usually made of sweet bean paste of lotus seed paste. Traditionally, moon cakes have an imprint on top, consisting of the Chinese characters for “longevity” or “harmony”. Imprints of a moon, a woman on the moon, flowers, vines, or a rabbit may surround the characters for additional decoration.
Nowadays, there are many kinds of moon cakes to fit into social trend such as moon cakes. Modern mooncakes differ mainly from traditional types mostly in the type of fillings. Most common among the modern moon cakes are the Shanghai and the Hainan moon cakes, but there are a few regional favourite which have caught the fancy of dessert-lovers world around.
The Cantonese moon cake is the most commonly seen throughout China. Originating from Guangdong province, the Cantonese style mooncake has up to 200 variations. The ingredients used for the fillings are usually lotus seed paste, melon seed paste, ham, chicken, duck, roast pork, mushrooms and egg yolk. More elaborate versions contain four egg yolks, representing the four phases of the moon.
Known for its layers of flaky dough and generous allotment of sugar and lard, this style began more than a thousand years ago. The Suzhou moon cake has more than a dozen variations. It features both sweet and savoury types, the latter served hot and usually filled with pork mince.
There are two variations of the Beijing moon cake. One is called “di qiang,” which was influenced by the Suzhou moon cake, with a light foamy dough. The other variation is called “fan mao” and has a flaky white dough. The two most popular fillings are the mountain hawthorn and wisteria blossom flavour. The Beijing-style mooncake is often elaborately decorated.
The Chaoshan moon cake is another flaky crust variety, but one which is larger in size than the Suzhou variety. It is a local favourite, with a variety of fillings such as mung bean paste and black bean potato pastes. The aroma of lard, too, emphasises the rich taste.
Yet another type inspired by the Suzhou moon cake, the Ningbo moon cake is prevalent in Zhejiang province. The fillings are either seaweed or ham, and it is also known for its spicy and salty flavour, making it a a savoury moon cake less commonly known even to the Chinese.
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