Mid-Autumn Festival: My Mooncake-making Ritual

Mid-Autumn festival is tomorrow. I actually don’t know much about the Chinese lunar calendar but I know it is ridiculously accurate in weather prediction. Almost always after the mid-autumn festival, the weather will start to cool. The festival is a celebration of harvest, full moon and getting together with your family and EAT of course. As a kid growing up in Hong Kong, me and my brother used to play with lanterns at night on the streets, it would be so much fun. There are the battery or the traditional lanterns lit with candles. Mooncakes, is a must-eat during that day. In Hong Kong, where most of the Chinese population are of Cantonese descent, I grew up eating traditional Cantonese mooncakes. The essence of the Cantonese mooncakes is its thin “crust” and sweet lotus seed filling with a salty and rich preserved duck egg yolk, representing the full moon. Other fillings are also used in other types, like a combination of five kinds of nuts with dried fruits, red bean paste etc. The lotus seed filling is the most classic. Like many traditional sweets, it is packed with sugar, fats and cholesterol, but who can resist eating one in the midst of the festival? I know I can’t. :) l learned how to make them about 5 years ago? I don’t really remember, but ever since learning it, I have never bought mooncakes. Mooncakes tend to be overpriced when everyone tries to buy them as gifts for family and friends. I passed by a local Chinese bakery a couple of days ago, they are selling them for more than CDN $10 each! It is, at the end, a piece of pastry. Making mooncakes has became a ritual for me this time every year. Most people prefer to buy mooncakes but for me, making them feels so festive. :D

traditional mooncake moulds

These are traditional moulds I have at home, they are carved from wood – I like them more than the plastic ones because they have very nice details, just something a plastic mould can’t produce.

It is difficult to explain the ingredients and method in words so I am not posting the recipe here. A good filling needs to withstand heat from the oven so it will turn out nicely. It also needs to be smooth and has a rich lotus seed flavour. I was able to get a filling that is specifically made for mookcakes, I can’t find it here anywhere in the Asian supermarkets here. The process also requires some technique that is best learned in a demonstration class (I took a class in Hong Kong). :P

lotus seed and red bean filling, preserved egg yolks, plastic moulds and a freshly baked mooncake!

I also have plastic moulds, they just look flimsy, like toys – the smaller one is actually broken and glued back together by my dad. There is an advantage of plastic moulds – no knocking on the counter like using wooden moulds in order to get the mooncakes out. I can’t imagine the noise level when these were made back in the days before the invasion of plastics and machines. The picture above is a freshly baked mooncake, it takes a couple of days for the oil to get absorbed by the crust so it would look less opaque – like what you would find in the supermarkets or bakeries. I just love the combination of the sweet rich filling with the salty yolks – sooo good! Also, you can never taste fresh mooncakes if you don’t make them, because store-bought ones are always made ahead in preparation for the festival. Fresh mooncakes are sooo delicious with a crunchy crust with a warm filling – simply unbeatable!

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival everyone!

Mini Mooncakes made with wooden moulds - the details are so beautiful!

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8 Comments

  • September 12, 2011 - 3:58 am | Permalink

    They look beautiful! I love your molds, I’m mildly obsessed with collecting them but they’re very hard to find where I live, so I have to ask my family to look when they go to Taiwan :) Mooncakes are insanely expensive to buy! I’m starting to think I need to go into business selling them myself…

    • Betty@YummyWorkshop
      September 12, 2011 - 8:56 am | Permalink

      Thanks! My moulds are from Hong Kong as well. Selling mooncakes is a good idea, I am sure it is profitable! :)

  • September 12, 2011 - 8:55 am | Permalink

    Hi! I love love LOVE mooncakes and want to know how you made yours and where did you get to but that wooden molds??

    • Betty@YummyWorkshop
      September 12, 2011 - 9:03 am | Permalink

      I had to get them from Hong Kong specialty food equipment stores. So happy whenever I go, there’s just so much to buy!

    • Betty@YummyWorkshop
      September 12, 2011 - 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Apparently u can buy wooden moulds from eBay. Wooden mould requires “seasoning” though and needs to be stored in a dry enough environment.

  • Mengda Zhang
    September 12, 2011 - 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I have the exact same pink plastic mold as you! XD just thought it was such a coincidence. Those look awesome!

    • Betty@YummyWorkshop
      September 12, 2011 - 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Thanks! The pink one looks like a toy, doesn’t it? XD

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