It’s here! It’s here! The Mid-Autumn Festival is finally here! We thought it would be appropriate to share the evolution of mooncakes in the latest edition of Hong Konnovation.
First, the history
Mooncakes (月餅) are a baked delicacy that people eat during the Mid-Autumn Festival, a festival for lunar worship and moon watching. They are given to friends and family, and now they are also given to clients. They are round pastries that are generally around 10cm in diameter and have a thin crust. Traditionally, the filling is made with red beans or lotus seed paste and have a variety of other fillings such as salted duck eggs, nuts, and ham.
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Now for the fun stuff. Here are a couple of the contemporary varieties of mooncakes.
“Healthy” (read: less unhealthy) Mooncakes
Because they are notoriously bad for you, being high in fat and sugar, low fat and fat free options were created to cater to the ever health-conscious consumers. A traditional mooncake has about 1,000 calories! There are also some that are high fiber and low sugar. Want to indulge but not bust your waistline too much? Grab one of these treats.
If you’d rather have the full fat version but just eat less of it, try a mini mooncake. These were created because of the heavy, rich quality of mooncakes. Their density made it hard to finish one in a single sitting so mini ones were created to lower waste and encourage consumption.
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In an attempt to attract younger consumers, mooncakes had to be modernized and made fun. They are not like their traditional siblings at all – they’re eaten cold and kept frozen, have chewy skins, and come in endless varieties. See the picture below and you’ll understand why it’s more attractive to the young consumers.
Click on image to enlarge.
As with everything else in Hong Kong, there are elite mooncakes that are even bought for scalping purposes. Among the most infamous of them all are the mini egg custard mooncakes made by the Peninsula Hotel. It is said that these hot items sell on the black market for double their retail price. These branded mooncakes are also a great present. The latest people to come out with their own mooncakes? Hong Kong Tatler shares 5: Hotel Icon, Jean-Paul Hevin, InterContinental Grand Stanford, Pierre Hermé Paris, and Jouer Atelier.
Pierre Hermé’s chocolate mooncakes
Looking to impress a client? Try giving them mooncakes with seafood in them. The variety includes abalone, shark fin, bird’s nest, and dried purple seaweed. These mooncakes tend to be more savory than sweet.
Ice cream mooncakes from Haagen-Dazs!
From left to right: chocolate, macadamia nut, cookies n cream, and strawberry.
In all actuality, the consumption of traditional mooncakes are lower than ever. According the Wall Street Journal, in 2013 nearly 2,000,000 mooncakes were thrown away in Hong Kong alone. So why is this industry still afloat and why do people still buy them? Because it’s still a custom to give them to friends, family, and clients. Also, there are charities who take donations of mooncakes and redistribute them to the elderly or underprivileged. St. James’ Settlement is one such charity. Find out more about donating your unwanted mooncakes here.
Happy Mid-Autumn everybody!
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Hong Konnovation is a series of blog posts that highlights Hong Kong’s unique ability to innovation on traditional things and their love for variety. Stay tuned for more posts, and if you have suggestions for a Hong Konnovation topic, please email [email protected].