A look at popular Mooncake flavors
Cookbook author Betty Liu grew up in a California neighborhood with plenty of Chinese bakeries, but couldn’t rely on them to satisfy her moon cake cravings.
“Most of them only sold the classic molded Cantonese moon cake,” she said. Ms. Liu’s parents are from Shanghai, where the moon cakes are flaky and spherical, stuffed with juicy pork. Cantonese moon cakes, on the other hand, are dense hockey puck-shaped pastries with chewy, chewy crusts.
When Ms. Liu posted about pork moon cakes on her Instagram, people accused her of inauthenticity, even though it was a recipe from her mother, who based her on memories of those she had eaten in China. “I got a few comments like, ‘These aren’t moon cakes. Don’t pass them off as moon cakes, ”Ms. Liu said. “But they only knew the Cantonese style.”
While there are many regional variations of moon cakes throughout Asia, people are more familiar with Cantonese iterations because the first Asian bakeries outside of Asia were Cantonese. They have also become the garden variety around the world due to the global influence of Hong Kong, where Cantonese cuisine is the norm.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, moon cakes “became known as a gift,” said Max Wong, executive director of Kee Wah Bakery, a Hong Kong institution that has been in existence since 1938 and now manufactures more. of 10 million moon cakes a year. Previously, pastries were only baked during the Mid-Autumn Festival, an annual event that celebrates the full moon when you think it’s the brightest. Moon cakes were prepared for personal consumption or to be presented as offerings to the moon. However, when Hong Kong became an international financial hub in the 1960s, pastries were marketed and widely distributed – wrapped in elaborate packaging and handed out to customers and friends.
Although the Cantonese version is the best known internationally, there is no defined section for pastry. “Where we are, we stuff it with ham. It’s a specialty of Yunnan, ”said Dong Meihua, referring to the southwestern province of China where she lives in the countryside. Ms. Dong, who produces popular cooking videos on YouTube as Dianxi Xiaoge, bakes her moon cakes with homemade honey-sweetened aged ham. Baked in a charcoal oven, they are soft and round, like golden orbs.
True to the original intention of the fall holidays, which this year falls on September 21, Ms. Dong offers a tray of moon cakes as a gift to the moon and lights incense sticks on them as a sign of gratitude for the assembly. annual. harvest. “We put our best ingredients in our moon cakes,” she said. “It is the highest form of respect for the Mid-Autumn Festival.”
Chong Suan, owner of Chuan Ji Bakery in Singapore, pays homage during the holidays by coating melon and sesame seeds, shallots, rose sugar, candied lime and orange zest in a thin crust that is then delicately pressed into a hand-carved wooden mold. mold. “It’s more like a cookie,” he said, describing the texture. He inherited the 95-year-old recipe from his grandmother, who immigrated to Singapore in the 1920s from Hainan, an island province in China.
Pastry has never ceased to evolve over the generations and through its travels across continents. Chinese-American blogger and cookbook author Kristina Cho gives an interpretation with crushed pistachios and a honey filling wrapped in a molded Cantonese crust. “Pistachios are luxurious for me,” she said.
If the intention of a moon cake is to show off the best of a region, then its composition will always be open to interpretation. “It doesn’t matter what shape or size it comes in,” Ms. Cho said. “A moon cake is something small and decadent that can be shared with your loved ones. “
Receipts: Honey and pistachio mooncakes | Suzhou Savory Moon Cakes