Why are there so many different kinds of mooncakes?
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