Why are there so many dif­fer­ent kinds of moon­cakes?

HK Magazine - - HOME - – Moon Boy

The tra­di­tional Can­tonese moon­cake con­tains salted duck egg wrapped in lo­tus seed paste in a thin, lard-based crust— and of course, the whole fam­ily fights over who gets the slice with the most egg.

But there are other kinds of moon­cakes from other ar­eas of China. Bei­jing-style and Chiu Chow-style moon­cakes, for ex­am­ple, have a light and flaky crust. Suzhou-style ones have a rich, flaky crust and come in both sweet and sa­vory va­ri­eties, nor­mally salt-and-pep­per pork.

Given that the av­er­age moon­cake con­tains about 1,000 calo­ries, even hardi­est of Hongkongers have de­cided they can’t re­ally get away with eat­ing th­ese de­li­cious lit­tle calo­rie bombs year on year. And so grad­u­ally, other (some­what more) healthy al­ter­na­tives have emerged to com­ple­ment the tra­di­tional Can­tonese style.

There have, there­fore, been three phases of moon­cake devel­op­ment in our city. Phase one: the tra­di­tional moon­cake. Phase two con­sisted of the two ma­jor gamechang­ers: the cus­tard and the snowy moon­cake.

Cre­ated in 1986 by chef Yip Wing-wah at the Penin­sula’s Spring Moon restau­rant, the cus­tard moon­cake in­cor­po­rates a rich, eggy fill­ing into a lighter pasty, served in a smaller cake—mak­ing them lighter and eas­ier for one per­son to eat. The Pen’s moon­cakes have proved lu­di­crously pop­u­lar, reg­u­larly sell­ing out their pre­orders months in ad­vance.

Then there’s the snowy, or snow-skin, moon­cake. Launched by Tai Pan Bak­ery in 1989, th­ese have a mochiesque skin made of gluti­nous rice, sur­round­ing a lighter fruit or bean paste fill­ing. Served frozen like ice cream treats, they might have been seen as re­ac­tionary at the time, but they reached full ac­cep­tance and pop­u­lar­ity in the 2000s, and they’re now a gen­er­ally ac­cepted al­ter­na­tive to the tra­di­tional va­ri­ety—though your granny might not agree.

Phase three is where it gets cre­ative—also known as “ev­ery brand out there try­ing to jump on the moon­cake band­wagon.” That’s why you’ll get a mul­ti­tude of con­fus­ing new moon­cakes: from Star­bucks’ own va­ri­eties to end­less choco­latiers’ ef­forts… most of which are ac­tu­ally just round choco­late tarts.

But who are we to ar­gue with a win­ning shape?

When it comes down to it, a moon­cake is what you make of it. And as long as it makes for a good time with fam­ily and an empty plate—then a moon­cake it is.

Golden, de­li­cious… and calorific

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