What’s the deal with mooncakes and the Mid-Autumn Festival?
If you’ve been to an Asian supermarket recently, you might have noticed exquisitely designed boxes of mooncakes occupying rows of shelves in one section of the store. Make no mistake: it’s mooncake season; which means these baked goodies are only here to grace us with their presence for a limited time before they disappear for another year or so.
What’s the occasion? Why are mooncakes so important at this time of the year? Let us fill you in on what the deal is with them!
Mooncakes: When things come full circle
Mooncakes are a hallmark of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. That’s on 13 September in the Gregorian calendar this year. The moon is at its fullest and roundest on this day and the festival is celebrated across East Asia as well as in Chinese and Vietnamese communities in Southeast Asia. It signifies the end of the autumn harvest, just like how Erntedankfest and Thanksgiving are observed in Germany and the USA respectively.
The Chinese believe that a round shape is a metaphor for harmony and completeness, which explains why family members reunite during the Mid-Autumn Festival to eat and share mooncakes with one another. They’re also popular gifts among friends, relatives, and business partners when the season hits.
The evolution of mooncakes
Traditional mooncakes are round, palm-sized baked treats with a chewy or flaky exterior. They’re typically filled with lotus bean, red bean, or mung bean pastes; and may come with one or two salted egg duck yolks (which represent the full moon), or nuts, seeds, or salted pork in the centre. Quite simply, their taste can be described as sweet on the inside, savoury on the outside.
As time goes by, consumers’ preferences have evolved to seek novelty, which means mooncake producers have had to innovate to keep up with their demands. These days, it’s not unusual to see mooncakes in contemporary and exciting flavours including matcha (green tea), taro, or even with a shot of whisky.
New forms of mooncakes, too, have been introduced; such as the well sought-after no-bake variant made out of glutinous rice, better known as ‘snow skin’. Snow skin mooncakes have a similar texture to mochi (a type of Japanese rice cakes) and are kept in the freezer before they’re thawed in the refrigerator and served cold.
No matter which part of the world you may be at on this day, the team at Easy Cook Asia wishes you a very happy Mid-Autumn Festival! If you’ve tried mooncakes or are celebrating it in some way this year, why not leave us a comment to tell us about it?