A perfect marriage of sweet and salty in flaky disc-shaped packages, mooncakes are once again making their annual appearance preceding Mid-Autumn Festival. This traditional Chinese festival occurs on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, falling rather late on October 4 this year. Various countries across Asia—such as Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos, and Sri Lanka—all celebrate the festival under different names, but its origins are the same.
Historically, ancient Chinese emperors would perform sacrificial rites to the sun in the summer and the moon in the autumn, to bring rain and plentiful harvests. The lay people later adopted these imperial rites and put their own twist on the festivities. Under the light of the full moon, scholars recite poems in its honour, children play with beautifully crafted lanterns, and families and friends ask each other lantern riddles. Most importantly, everybody partakes in lotus seed paste pastries.
Legend has it that mooncakes have also served a revolutionary purpose. When Ming revolutionaries conspired to overthrow their Mongol rulers during the Yuan dynasty in China, they circulated pastries with slips of paper inside them bearing the message “Rise up on the 15th day of the 8th month”.
Lunar worship has disappeared now, but mooncakes still remain. From the traditional to the unique, take your pick from Hong Kong’s most sought after food of the month.
It is no secret that mooncakes are not exactly the healthiest of snacks—700 to 1,000 calories per piece, if you must know. Just as well that the season for them only comes annually. This year however, the health-conscious can indulge guilt-free with The Cakery’s range of gluten-free, dairy-free, egg free, and refined-sugar-free mooncakes. Using almond flour and maple syrup as base ingredients, each flavour is made with different kinds of superfood, and has no preservatives or artificial colouring added.
Choose from Black Sesame, Red Date, Fig & Orange, or Osmanthus & Matcha, each embossed with a distinctive floral pattern. Sold in sets of four, each box retails at $298. Available for purchase online at thecakery.com
One for the art lovers – design enthusiasts will appreciate the artwork for the gift box by emerging Hong Kong painter Cheng Ting Ting. Richly rendered in shades of plum and pink, the hand painted design reflects the communal and approachable spirit of Mid-Autumn Festival. Each box houses six cream custard mooncakes, and is priced at $368 (with a discount for Duddell’s members).
Available to order online here.
While the traditional mooncakes by InterContinental Hong Kong’s 2-Michelin starred Yan Toh Heen are undoubtedly tempting, we are more interested in this year’s Yuzu Custard offering. Everything from flavour to packaging was designed by Wish Children from Make-A-Wish Hong Kong, and net proceeds from the sale of these mooncakes go towards the organisation. Helping children with life-threatening medical conditions while satisfying your sweet tooth? Winning combo.
$88 per piece, the citrusy mooncakes are available to order online at hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com/en/dining/yan-toh-heen
Mott 32 partnered with Pierre Hermé (awarded World’s Best Pastry Chef 2016 by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants) to challenge standard mooncake tastes and techniques, coming up with four unique layered fillings, each covered with a different chocolate coat. Vanilla contains almond and vanilla, Ispahan has raspberry, rose and lychee, Qi Qiao boasts orange blossom and kumquat, and Qin Yi includes jasmine and grapefruit. Sold in sets of four, each box retails at $690, but preorders are also available until September 19 at $580.
Sold in sets of four, each box retails at $690, but preorders are also available until September 19 at $580.
Order online at mott32.com/mooncakes
What sets these mooncakes apart from others is that each set comes with Sing Yin gourmet tea, selected to be a subtle gastronomic match.
W remains traditionalist with choices of double yolk white lotus seed paste (set of four, $418), mini golden custard (set of six, $388), or half yolk mini red bean paste (set of six, $388). Early bird discounts of up to 30 per cent off are also available until September 26.
Available to order online, visit w-hongkong.com/2017mooncake
After the smashing success of his cookie brand, Hong Kong celebrity Nicholas Tse is expanding his culinary endeavours into the realm of mooncakes. Dubbed ‘mooncookies’, the cutely packaged treats are butter and earl grey flavoured, with a traditional sweet lotus seed paste and salted egg yolk. Sold in sets of nine, each box retails at $240, with discounts if two or more boxes are purchased at the same time.
Order from the flagship store on Gage Street in Central, Mira Place in Tsim Sha Tsui, or online at chef-nic.com/en
Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong takes the cake (sorry, we couldn’t resist) for the most daring mooncake filling this year. Chinese Executive Chef Chan Yan Tak has adapted the beloved pairing of truffles and egg for his mooncake creation. Black truffle bits and white truffle oil lend the traditional lotus seed base an earthy aroma and goes beautifully with the salted egg yolk.
The pastries are retailing as a set of six for $520, though an assorted set is also available at the same price should you also wish to try the other noteworthy flavours like Preserved Eggs and Pickled Ginger or Five Nuts and Glazed Ham.
Call 3196 8708 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
Marvel and Disney fans, this one is for you! Hong Kong Maxim’s has teamed up with Marvel to present two designs featuring the superheroes of summer 2017, each housing a different flavour – Iron Man with green tea red bean filling, and Spider Man with egg custard. Less action-oriented individuals may be more interested in the Disney collaboration featuring Minnie and Daisy on a book-shaped box, containing fruit flavoured snowy mooncakes.
The Marvel mooncakes are retailing as a set of two at $198, and the Disney version at $98 per box.
Available in designated outlets across Hong Kong, visit maxims.com.hk
Hong Kong’s Argentine culinario buff Gaucho draws inspiration from one of their most popular desserts, the Dulce de Leche cheesecake, to create a creamy, caramel-ly twist on the mooncake. Made with seasonal ingredients, this daring reinvention is well worth a try for the sweet of tooth. The Dulce de Leche mooncake gift set comes in a box of four and is retailing at $288.
Available to preorder from now until October 5. Visit gauchorestaurants.com for more details.