Mid Autumn Festival is sometimes informally called “Mooncake Festival”. It is traditionally a celebration of harvest during the fall season and is marked on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar.
On this day, the full moon is said to be the brightest and roundest. It glows with lustre in the night sky as families reunite over a hearty meal. In the evening, children and adults will hold colourfully lit lanterns and carry them around while going on walks to admire the moon.
A delicacy known as mooncake is eaten during this holiday. Mooncake is a rich, sweet pastry that is usually filled with either red bean or lotus seed paste. Its roundness in shape mirrors the full moon and auspiciously symbolizes completeness. For everyone in the family to share and eat mooncake during this holiday is to signify harmony and unity.
Today’s Mid Autumn Festival has gone beyond the gathering of family members. In an urban setting like Singapore, there is literally not much harvest to celebrate. However this holiday is the time to connect with loved ones, friends and even business partners. Mooncakes are given as gifts, as a gesture of goodwill while conveying well wishes.
A mooncake can be as small as a macaron or as big as a birthday cake, although the average size is around the size of one’s palm. It is best savoured in small wedges and accompanied by tea.
Traditional style mooncakes have glossy brown crusts which are slightly thick and chewy, showing off intricate imprints on the top side. The mooncakes are made with specially carved moulds to shape them before baking. The imprints could be auspicious Chinese characters or the names and ingredients of a particular mooncake. They could also be beautiful floral designs without words, or artistic symbols of moon, vines and rabbit, which represents the moon.
Another popular type of mooncake is snow skin mooncake, where instead of the baked crust, the mooncake is made with a silky soft glutinous rice casing that is similar to mochi. When it gets close to Mid Autumn Festival, Garden Pastry and Cake usually launches their snow skin mooncakes for ordering.
The filling of the mooncake is often dense and sweet, with beans or nuts as the primary ingredient. Sometimes the yolks from salted duck eggs might be included in this otherwise cloyingly sweet pastry, to balance the sweet taste and give a hint of savoury richness.
Nowadays we can find other fillings for mooncakes such as taro, chocolate, durian and even ice-cream! For those with a sweet tooth, these fancy modern mooncakes are very well-liked. Some companies are even merging western techniques with traditional mooncakes. Antoinette, which is famous for their French pastry, has been known to offer mooncake macarons during Mid Autumn Festival.
Mooncakes have also gone from being sweet treats to designer creations and high-end delicacies that are made with expensive ingredients such as bird’s nest, champagne and foie gras. These premium mooncakes are often highly sought-after as corporate gifts.
Mooncakes are very high in calories, which is why some businesses out there are changing the traditional recipes and introducing healthier options such as sweet potato and tofu mooncakes. However since mooncakes are considered once-a-year treats, most people would still go for their favourite mooncakes while temporarily putting aside health concerns. After all, what is a festival that celebrates harvest if one cannot indulge in some deliciously sweet delights? Get your mooncakes delivered in Singapore!