Once a year, on the 15th day of the eighth month on the Chinese lunar calendar, Chinese people around the world gather and celebrate this special day known as the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节)
On that day, families and friends will typically gather for dinner, eat moon cake, light up lanterns and then take late night strolls to view and enjoy the moon at its roundest and fullest.
Moon cakes are synonymous with the Mid-Autumn Festival. There are many types of moon cakes, from the traditional baked lotus paste filling ones, to the soft chewy snow skin, ice cream moon cakes and even agar-agar moon cakes. While we do eat some of the moon cake, as a tradition, people would more often buy gift packs for friends and family, which is why the packaging and presentation of the moon cakes is just as important as its taste.
The traditional moon cakes are the baked Cantonese style, the best of which hails from Hong Kong. One of the most famous brands of Cantonese moon cakes is Wing Wah. They have been making moon cakes since the 1950s at their original stall at Yuen Long, Hong Kong. Their signature cake is a traditional lotus seed paste filling that’s made from high-quality Hunan lotus seeds, wrapped around one, two or three whole top grade salted duck egg yolk and covered with a thin baked crust. With each bite, you taste the richness, sweetness and fineness of the moon cake.
Coco and Viner Sacha’s favourite moon cake is the assorted nuts. Five types of assorted nuts like melon seeds, almonds, sesame seeds, Terminalia and sweetened lotus seeds are mixed in with the lotus seed filling, yielding a different rich nutty flavour.
My personal favourites are the snow skin moon cakes, reason being, they taste similar to the Japanese mochi sweet rice dessert. They are not baked, but chilled, and its fillings are usually fruit based like mango, blueberry, strawberry or even durian. With less oil and sugar, they are also a healthier option compared to the traditional moon cakes. Bite sized, they come in more creative shapes.
This year, we got our snow skin moon cake from Macau Honghong Moon Cakes, who have been making moon cakes since 1969. Their snow skin variety are fluffy, light, chewy, not overly sweet and satisfying with each bite.
To go with your moon cake, don’t forget to brew yourself a cup of hot Chinese tea, slice up some pomelo fruit, light up that lantern and enjoy the moonlights. After all, it is a once a year event and a great excuse to catch up and have some fun with friends and family. If you are in Sydney, your best bets are to head to Haymarket in Chinatown or do what we did, and head to Cabramatta to pick up one, two, or even a box!