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Moon cakes in Mid-Autumn Festival

Source: Changjiang Weekly 09/08/2016 05:09:37

Yangzijiang's moon cake gift box

This year's Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival will fall on September 15. More than a month ago, many supermarkets and grocery stores began selling moon cakes. Wuhan people enjoy many different types of moon cakes, including Beijing-style, Suzhou-style, Cantonese-style, and Chaoshan-style moon cakes.

Moon cakes are usually round in shape and are eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Amongst family members, the moon cakes symbolize reunion and harmony and are a must for proper Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.

Su Dongpo (苏东坡), a great poet of the Song Dynasty, wrote the following poem to eulogize and immortalize the moon cake: "This small cake looks like a full moon, yet is filled with malt sugar and butter." This poem also suggests that moon cakes were already being stuffed with butter and sugar in the Song Dynasty. During the Yuan Dynasty, people used the tradition of sending moon cakes to one another to pass information. A message which encouraged the people to rise up together to kill the ruling Mongolian invaders on August 15 was passed via moon cakes. In the Ming Dynasty, the practice of eating moon cakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival became more common; many written records concerning the moon cake date to this period. After the Ming Dynasty, the popularity of the moon cake continued. From the Qing Dynasty to modern times, new varieties of moon cakes have emerged. Different ingredients, preparation methods, shapes, and colors have come about.

Now, the moon cake is not only a unique flavor associated with a festival, it is a popular dessert in every season. However, eating too much moon cake is not particularly healthy.

Many time-honored moon cake brands were born in Wuhan; these include Yangzijiang (扬子江), Wangyuxia (汪玉霞), and Caoxiangtai (曹祥泰). These brands offer a wide variety of flavors to local customers.

Innovative flavors

Traditional moon cakes vary widely depending on the region where they are produced. Most moon cakes consist of a thin, tender pastry skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling, and may contain one or more whole salted egg yolks in their center as the symbol of the full moon.

In traditional moon cakes many types of fillings can be found, such as lotus seed paste (莲蓉), sweet bean paste (豆沙), jujube paste (枣泥) and five kernel (五仁). Recipes differ from region to region, but commonly used nuts and seeds include: walnuts, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, peanuts, sesame seeds, or almonds.

Nowaday, there are innovative flavors available, including fruit, tea, abalone, and sea cucumber. Each type has a unique taste.

Shangri-La Hotel serves mango custard flavored moon cakes; Jinjiang International Hotel specializes in cream and papaya flavored moon cakes; Marco Polo Hotel stuffs its moon cakes with tremella, goji berry, blackcurrant, and sand-colored custard; and Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Hotel offers a unique cranberry and red wine moon cake.

Ganso sells a gift box with snow moon cakes that have a sweet and delicious strawberry filling, a fragrant mango filling or a Hawaiian Macadamia nut filling.

Tea flavored moon cakes are popular this year. Hilton Wuhan Optics Valley Hotel mixes osmanthus and longjing tea into their moon cakes; Shangri-La Hotel mixes dark plum, cheese, and tieguanyin tea into their moon cakes; and Jinjiang International Hotel has started selling eye-catching rose tea moon cakes.

Of course, perhaps the most anticipated are the truffle and abalone moon cakes, such as Jinjiang International Hotel's truffle bacon moon cakes and KenGee's Cantonese-style Buddha Jump Over the Wall (abalone, and sea cucumber) moon cakes.

To cater to as wide a range of tastes as possible, many local supermarkets provide affordable moon cakes in bulk. They also offer pricey yet mouth-watering specialty moon cakes from Hong Kong and Guangzhou.