Traditional Chinese Mooncakes
Popularly known as the "Moon Festival," the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration is a popular Chinese holiday—and the perfect time to make these delicious mooncakes! The Chinese Moon Festival is celebrated on the autumnal equinox, during the full moon. Making and sharing mooncakes among friends and family is one of the main traditions of the Moon Festival.
Also, in the Chinese culture, a round shape symbolizes completeness and reunion. Thus, the sharing round mooncakes among family members during the week of the festival signifies the completeness and unity of families.
What Does the Mid Autumn Festival Symbolize?
The Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the Chinese calendar around the autumn equinox. Originally, this festival was a time to enjoy the successful reaping of rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon, as families came together. The festival celebrates three fundamental notions:
Gathering: Family and friends come together to harvest crops, as the moon is the brightest and roundest on this day—signifying family reunion. This is mainly why the festival is deemed important.
Thanksgiving: To express gratitude for the harvest and peaceful unions.
Praying: For anything that is conceptually materialistic, be it family, health, beauty, longevity, or for a good future.
What Do You say at the Mid-Autumn Festival?
The Moon Festival basically blesses you with six warm wishes: that you will have happiness in life, gain satisfaction at work, find your true love, a happy and united family, loving and caring friends, and just general wishes for a wonderful year ahead. In Chinese, "Zhōng qiū kuài lè!" translates to "Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!"
What Do You Eat on Mid-Autumn Festival?
Over time, the rich and colorful Mid-Autumn Festival has developed so many customs across households, paving way to a multitude of meals served. Every home makes or serves different kinds of delicious food and good wines to celebrate the festival. The most popular Moon Festival dishes include mooncakes, pumpkin-based recipes, duck, pomelo, buffalo nut, walnuts, river snails, taro, wine fermented with osmanthus flowers, edamame, lotus root, hairy crabs and pears.
When Should You Eat Mooncakes?
Mooncakes, usually made of a rich paste filling surrounded by a thin crust, are traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, while sipping tea and gazing upon the roundest, brightest moon of the year after the big family dinner. In some parts of China, mooncakes are traditionally made and consumed during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The eldest person in the household would cut the mooncakes into pieces and distribute them to each family member, signifying family reunion. These days, however, making mooncakes at home is not too common, and people buy them, while retaining the custom of giving mooncakes to family members, signifying familial unity.
How to Make Mooncakes
The most commonly known mooncake is the Cantonese-style mooncake, known for it's golden, thin and soft crust with an intricate pattern. It is usually filled with a lotus paste, which is a sweet paste made with lotus seeds and egg yolks. The crust itself is made with simple flour, honey or golden syrup, baking soda, some oil and water. This combination is sweet, fragrant, slightly salty and delicious. There are some versions of the mooncake made with glutinous rice flour, rendering a white, snow-like skin to the treat. Besides lotus-skin, there are versions with red-bean, sesame, peanut and more!
These mooncakes have a delicate pattern on the surface, which are actually formed using a mould. You can find different kinds of mooncake moulds online, and they come in various styles and sizes. A lot of mooncake recipes will use lye water to create the skin. But since this is hard to find, you can use baking soda to create the same kind of crust. And although this makes the dough slightly crumbly, you end up with perfect shaped and textured mooncakes.
Tips for Making the Perfect Mooncake
Measurements: You'll need to weigh out your filling and the dough, as this ensures that they fit into your mould perfectly.
Grease the mould: To help mooncakes bake and come out perfectly, without sticking to the surface.
Spray mooncakes with water: Spraying the mooncakes with a light spritz of water after the first bake adds some moisture back into the skin, preventing it from cracking and helps bake and brown the pastry evenly.
Allow mooncakes to rest after baking: This allows the skin to absorb flavors from the filling.
Related: 30 Best Vegan Chinese Recipes
Traditional Chinese Mooncakes Recipe
⅓ cup or 125 grams Golden Syrup
210 grams Plain Refined flour
3 Tbsp or 45 ml Vegetable oil
⅓ tsp Baking soda
½ tsp Water
For the Mooncake Skin
Mix baking soda and water together
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, golden syrup, and oil.
Add the baking soda and water mixture to the flour mixture.
Mix together until the dough comes together, then knead for 5-8 minutes until you have a smooth dough.
Cover with a plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 1-2 hours.
For the Sweet Filling
For each mooncake, you'll need to portion out the filling and mix with 2 egg yolks.
Mix well, then roll into small balls. Each one should weight about 75 grams.
Assembling the Mooncakes
Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F.
Divide the dough into 8 portions, and roll into neat balls.
Place on the plastic wrap, and roll into a thin circle.
Place the balls of sweet filling on the rolled out dough, and bring the edges together. Seal the gaps.
Add the shaped balls of mooncake into the mould and press to make into a mooncake shape.
Place the formed mooncakes on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Bake the mooncakes for 6 minutes
Remove from the oven and lightly spray with water.
Lightly brush them with the egg wash.
Bake for another 6 minutes
Repeat the process a couple of times until golden brown
Remove from the oven and cool completely before placing in an airtight container. Let t sit at room temperature for 1-2 days to allow the skin to soak up flavors of the filling.
Store at room temperature and consume within a week.