Mooncakes are synonymous with the Mid-Autumn Festival, originally a harvest festival celebrated by the ethnic Chinese across Asia, dating from over 3,000 years ago.
The second most important festival after the Lunar New Year or Spring festival to the Chinese, this event, also known as Mooncake Festival, takes place on every 15th day of the eighth month of the Lunar calendar, which will fall on September 30 this year.
At this time of the year, mooncakes are exchanged as gifts and a must-eat festival food. While the traditional mooncake is made from ground lotus seeds, sesame seeds and salted egg yolk, various contemporary versions have cropped up in recent years as pastry chefs render their own interpretations.
Here are a few variations of this traditional pastry in an assortment of flavors and shapes which can be found across Asia.
Mousse mooncake at China World Hotel Beijing (Shangri-la)
“We thought of creating a traditionally shaped treat while using the lighter techniques of French pastries,” Philippe Daue, the hotel’s area executive pastry chef said.
“We kept the shape of the mooncakes and the typical box, but worked on different fillings and ways of making the cakes.”
Daue, created the mooncake in six flavors: strawberry, berry mascarpone, tiramisu, chocolate raspberry, hazelnut, and peach yogurt.
A gift box of mousse mooncakes retails at RMB98 (about $US15.50). In addition to the mooncake gift box, the hotel also offers three gift hampers for guests to pick from.
Mamouang mooncake COCO at The Mira Hong Kong
Created by Jean-Marc Gaucher, executive pastry chef of The Mira, an upscale design hotel located in the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping hub, the Mamouang mooncake is inspired by Thai flavors. This mooncake has a coconut ivory ganache with mango fruit paste and Malibu coconut liquor on crispy rice, coupled with a vanilla biscuit coated with white chocolate and a sprinkle of mango.
This contemporary chocolate mooncake also comes in a smaller bite size.
Individually packaged, the regular-size mooncake is priced at HK$98 (around US$13) each, while a box of four costs HK$318 (about US$41). The mini mooncakes are available in a gift box of 12, retailing at HK$228 (aboutUS$30).
Lobster mooncake at Majestic Restaurant, Singapore
This mooncake is a creation of Majestic Restaurant, housed in a design boutique hotel in the historic Chinatown of Singapore. The restaurant won Asian Restaurant of the Year in 2011 at the World Gourmet Summit Asian Gastronomic Awards.
Unlike the traditional sweet mooncake, the lobster mooncake is savory in taste. In the making of this pastry, fresh lobster meat, mixed with salt and oven-dried for 3 hours, is added to lobster oil, which is cooked with lobster shells in peanut oil over low fire.
While the traditional mooncake is also made from different kinds of nuts, this variation includes the addition of orange peel and preserved dried melon.
“There’s a lot of bite in the mooncake; well-balanced sweetness with savory notes from the lobster go well with Chinese tea,” pastry chef Yong Bing Ngen said.
This mooncake is also created specially to coincide with this year being the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese zodiac calendar – ‘lobster’ in Chinese sounds the same as ‘dragon’. The mooncakes are sold in a pair for S$30.00 (about US$25)
Black truffle and Parma ham mooncake at Langham Place, Hong Kong
Embellished with gold leaves, this black truffle with mixed nuts and Parma ham mini mooncake is a creation by two-Michelin star Cantonese restaurant Ming Court’s executive chef Tsang Chiu King, who put the best of Western culinary ingredients into a Chinese delicacy.
“Bringing black truffle and Parma ham together is a bold step in Chinese cuisine,” said Chef Tsang.
“A mixed nut mooncake has always been a popular traditional mooncake flavor among the Cantonese people, with Yunnan ham as one of the most used ingredients,” a spokesperson said.
“Chef Tsang has creatively used Parma Ham to substitute the traditional Yunnan ham as it is richer in taste but softer in texture than Yunnan ham.” Eight pieces for HK$388 (US$ 50).
Cheeky mooncakes at Goods of Desire (G.O.D.), Hong Kong
Made of ground lotus seed and egg yolks, the annual limited-edition mooncake from this Hong Kong lifestyle retailer come in the form of eight cheeky designs created in the shape of a butt. The mooncakes are all presented in a Chinese traditional Lunar calendar box. Each mooncake is priced at HK$65 (about US$8.50).