Mooncake Festival

Mooncake Festival

Perhaps one of the most fun Chinese celebrations apart from the Chinese New Year is the Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival. This is a joyous festival of feasting and moon gazing. Children are allowed to stay up late to light paper lanterns. As with all Chinese celebrations, food plays a major part in the festivities. Special foods for this festival include mooncakes, cooked mini taro, and water caltrope which is a kind of water chestnut resembling black buffalo horns. To see a picture of the water caltrope, click here.

The Mooncake Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Lunar Calendar, around the time of the autumn equinox. The date on the Gregorian (western) calendar changes annually. This year, the festival falls on Wednesday, September 22, 2010.

Mooncake Festival

Round about this time mooncakes are widely sold in China and all overseas Chinese communities. These cakes are about 3 inches in diameter and 1½ inches thick. They have a golden brown crust with a filling of bean paste, melon seeds, lotus seeds, almonds, minced meats, and orange peel. A yolk from a salted duck egg is normally placed in the center of the filling. Today, there are many variations of these cakes with different pastries and fillings. Some of the pastries include the flaky pastry, spiral pastry, and snowskin pastry made of glutinous rice flour with a texture similar to that of mochi. There is also a myriad of fillings from lotus seed paste, red bean paste, taro, mashed sweet potatoes, green tea, and even durian.

According to folklore the Mooncake Festival commemorates a rebellion in China against the Mongol rulers in the 14th century. It was noted that the Mongols did not eat mooncakes and so it was the perfect vessel for hiding and passing along plans for the rebellion. Thousands of mooncakes with the “message” were distributed to the Chinese families in the cities. On the night of the Mid-Autumn festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government.

Mooncake Festival

These mooncakes were purchased at the Asian grocery store that I frequent each week. They are so beautifully packaged. Each cake is individually wrapped and comes in its own tin. I believe the women depicted on the tins are the four great beauties of ancient China. They are

1. Xi Shi whose beauty would would sink fishes because they forget how to swim when she walks by.
2. Wang Zhaojun whose beauty would entice birds in flight to fall from the sky with her appearance.
3. Diao Chan was so beautiful that the moon would shy away when compared to her face.
4. Yang Guifei whose beauty would put all flowers to shame.

Source: Wikipedia

Wow… be bestowed with such beauty! Anyway, these tins sure are keepers.

Mooncake Festival

I chose the plain lotus seed paste mooncakes without the egg yolk. The salty egg yolk is an acquired taste.

Mooncake Festival

Can’t wait any longer…..had to take a bite! Could be a little more moist but still pretty good, especially if you only get to eat it once a year.

Mooncake Festival

It’s fun to light paper lanterns. Aren’t they pretty? Please do share your Mooncake Festival celebration with us.

Mooncake Festival

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎

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  1. Devaki says

    Dear Biren – I miss moon cakes – the last time I had these I was in Singapore and I still remember the egg yolks in them and how they got more and more expensive depending on the number of yolks.

    I love the ones with lotus seeds :) Thanks for the insightful history and all the details.

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  2. rotinrice says

    I can understand you missing mooncakes. They are really delicious, albeit high in calories. I give myself a treat each year and buy a box or two :)

  3. Stella says

    Oh Biren, I am going to 'Google' my town and find out if there is a Chinese bakery or store that has these moon cakes. They look wonderful with that filling-so nice. I'll even break my diet for one (smile).
    p.s. your teapot is so cute too btw. I love that…

  4. rotinrice says

    Ooh Stella…you make me laugh! I assure you though that these are worth breaking your diet for. Each year, I say I will not have mooncakes but every year I succumb to the temptation.

  5. the lacquer spoon says

    Biren, thanks for the info on moon cakes! This summer is so peculiar with the temperature around 35C in Japan and no chilly winds yet! Your blog shows me now is autumn on a calender :)

  6. Anncoo says

    Biren, Mooncakes already started selling here two weeks ago and again at Takashimaya, there is a Mooncake event there until 22nd Sept. I already been there and sampled most of the new flavors. I think the most popular mooncake this year is the Durian snowskin mooncake. There are also chocolate and ice cream mooncakes but I still prefer the traditional baked mooncake without egg yolk.

  7. rotinrice says

    Hey Ann, thanks for sharing. I wish I could be there to sample all those wonderful new flavors. My favorite is the traditional baked ones too. The chocolate mooncakes sound interesting.

  8. aipi says

    Ahh..the beauty of blogsphere..we get to know so much about different foods n cultures..Thank you so much for sharing the information Biren!
    Lovely and very unique the name too :)

    US Masala

  9. Cristina TeenieCakes says

    I always learn a lot about other cultures when reading your blog and I very much appreciate and enjoy it. When these mooncakes are made today, do they still add messages in it? Very beautiful about the Four Great Beauties of China. Wish I could have a taste or two of these cakes with some tea right now!

  10. Kamalika says

    Dear Biren, THanks a lot for sharing such a nice info on Mooncake Festival…..Loved to about the grt beauties….never knew that this kind of cake exists too……The tins are really a keeper…I will surely buy one, if get it here…may not for the cake but for the tin….hahaha…

  11. MaryMoh says

    Lovely post about the moon cake festival. I only eat the moon cakes without knowing the detailed story behind it. I'm so happy a friend gave us a box today. Hope to try and make sometime this week……if I'm hard working. It looks challenging!

  12. lequan@luvtoeat says

    Thanks for this mooncake festival post Biren! I loved reading about the four beauties of ancient China, and I never heard that story about hiding messages inside the mooncake, very interesting. I'm more of the no yolk mooncake eater too. When I eat ones with yolk, I actually take the yolk out first and give it away to someone who wants it. Teehee.

  13. Pachecopatty says

    This festival falls on my son's birthday, I think that must make him lucky:) Thanks for sharing because I do love learning and you have some very interesting posts here, that's for sure:) I have never seen a mooncake but I would take one to get my hands on that pretty tin!

  14. Namitha says

    What a coincidence, I was talking to my Taiwanese friend yesteday and she was talking about this festival and moon cake :-) Have never tasted them but they look so beautiful :-)

  15. Juliana says

    I love moon cakes, specially the ones that have the salty egg yolk…actually we had some last night at friends house…SO yummie!

  16. sweetlife says

    Thanks for sharing this celebration with us, I love the mooncakes and the pic of the laterns is stunning…great post

  17. jillyann says

    This was such a wonderful post Biren. I love all the cultural and historic information. It's just lovely. Those cakes looks amazing also.

  18. Mary says

    I loved learning a bit more about the moon festival and the significance of the cakes. I love to know the history of festival foods. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  19. Monet says

    Thank you for sharing these lovely photographs and telling me a bit more about the tradition behind mooncakes. I have been seeing them a lot in the blogging world, but I had never heard the backstory before. Thank you for sharing!

  20. rotinrice says

    Thanks Mary! Mooncakes are really delicious but have to limit myself as it probably contains lots of calories. Good thing only eat it once a year :) Yes, it definitely is challenging to make :)

  21. Dongxing says

    What lovely boxes that came with the mooncakes! I love eating mooncakes once a year – it gives me that extra nostalgic feeling and brings back lovely childhood memories of walking around the neighbourhood with our lighted lanterns, and the burning of the lanterns at the end of the night. I had my first taste of mooncakes this year in July when my sister came for a visit. They were delicious!!

  22. rotinrice says

    Glad to hear you have such fond childhood memories :) Ooh…you burned those beautiful lanterns at then end of the evening? I would have cried!

    I do like mooncakes but have to eat them sparingly. Lucky you to have delicious mooncakes from home!

  23. denise fletcher says

    So lovely a post that I almost failed to notice there is no recipe :) I have always loved mooncakes but even after all these years – I cannot appreciate the ones with egg yolks inside. I honestly think the flavours don't complement each other at all and the yolks are probably included purely for symbolism as the Chinese are so big on symbolism. The individual tins are beautiful – nice than anything I've seen so far!

  24. sensiblecooking says

    Wow thank you for such a great cultural information. I will try those moon cakes if I can get one in my local asian grocery store.

  25. Julie M. says

    Biren, I've never had a moon cake before but now you've got me curious! Do they sell them year round? I might stop by my International grocery store and see if I can't pick a few up to try.


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