Happy Chinese Moon Festival! – Moon Cakes

Happy Chinese Moon Festival!

To honour the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, popularly known as the Moon Festival, I am dedicating a post to the dessert that I do not like, but is significant and traditional to the day: the mooncake. I actually don’t know the history behind the moon festival, but all I know is that during this time of year families will gather together at a Chinese restaurant to have a nice dinner, eat moon cakes and moon each other. Just kidding about the last one! I don’t want to see any bums of my family members…

My Moon Festival dinner happened at Empire Chinese Cuisine, but other popular and fully booked Chinese restaurants in Vancouver BC and the lower mainland will include Kirin, Red Star Seafood, Rainflower, Top Gun as well as many others; and Sun Siu Wah Seafood Restaurant for the “white folk” that want to participate =p In Hong Kong the Moon Festival is a huge celebration and people get a week off. That should be a rule that applies to Richmond as well.

Anyways this post is about the mooncake. The mooncake is a traditional Chinese pastry that is eaten during this time of year. It’s typical to bring boxes of moon cakes over to friends and family as a kind gesture. Mooncakes are made with a thick paste or filling made from traditionally lotus seed paste. They have a thin outer crust that’s almost like a tender pie shell and in the middle of the mooncake is a salted duck egg yolk which resembles the full moon. Mooncakes are delicacies and the egg yolk is highly prized.

Only old-school Chinese people will make them at home, but nowadays almost everyone just buys them. They’re not cheap though because they take a long time to make. There’s hundred’s of versions and varieties of this traditional mooncake, and people are getting so creative that I just had to highlight them as much as I never liked them. Yes, I don’t like them. It might be something I’ll appreciate later in life… when I lose my taste buds. The only ones I like are these frozen ones that taste like ice cream from T&T Supermarket.

Recommendation: Just don’t think of mooncakes as dessert and you might enjoy them more.

On the table:

Gold box (on the left) from T&T Supermarket and orange box (on the right) from Pine House Bakery.

In the orange box..

Pine House Bakery Moon Cakes – 5/6 if you like mooncakes, 2/6 even if you don’t

  • These retail somewhere between $30-40
  • One box comes with 4 mooncakes

  • This is a traditional authentic mooncake. Traditional ones will always have an imprint of Chinese characters on top. The imprint comes from the mooncake mold they use to make it. I’m not sure what it says – but if you know, please feel free to leave a comment.

  • It’s a pretty big cake/pastry and it’s about an inch thick. It’s commonly sliced into wedges and shared with family and friend over a cup of hot tea. It’s a dessert or snack and they’re quite filling so rarely would anyone have a whole one to themselves.

  • Pine House Bakery actually does a super good job with the mooncakes. I don’t even like them, but to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I remember them to be… unless they were just that good here.
  • There is usually only one egg yolk in the centre of the mooncake, but this one had double egg yolk throughout the cake. I like that because then everyone got a piece of it and the yolks are huge. The salted duck egg yolk is quite often everyone’s favourite part of the mooncake.
  • It has a flaky buttery crust and then the inside is made of lotus seed paste. It’s sweet, but not too sweet and with the egg yolk it almost tastes like eating very thick peanut butter cake/pie. It’s very dense and dry, in the sense that it’s hard to swallow without hot tea.
  • It really reminds me of a sweet peanut butter in terms of taste and texture, but there’s not nuts in it at all. Eaten with the egg yolk it adds saltiness which makes it more like peanut butter.
  • This is actually quite a moist mooncake because some places will have a dry and crumbly egg yolk, this one was made pretty perfectly.
  • Pine House Bakery on Urbanspoon

    In the gold box…

T & T Bakery

  • The gold box comes with 4 varieties of mooncakes. There are 3 of each variety for a total of 12 mooncakes. The box retails for around $16 at T & T Supermarket.
  • These are mini mooncakes and they’re about the size of a small plum.
  • They’re definitely contemporary mooncakes and I think they’re new to the “mooncake scene”. With all the pretty colours they were like the Chinese version of Parisian Macarons!
  • None of them are all that sweet, especially with the salted egg yolk, older generation Asians don’t like anything that sweet anyways… hence the red bean soups, almond cookies, coconut desserts, and fruit cakes… blah.
  • All these mooncakes have a really flaky and tender layered crust, but they taste like nothing. They’re not even sweet, and they don’t really taste like the flavours they should be. Most the flavours came from the fillings. Basically they all looked better than they tasted.

Taro Mooncake – 2/6 (Maybe a 3/6 if you like mooncakes)

  • This was made with a flaky taro paste crust, taro paste filling, and a salted egg yolk.
  • It wasn’t too sweet and it had an obvious taro taste. It’s super flaky and crumbly, but I didn’t like how dry the egg yolk was.
  • I like taro in general, so I’m biased.

Green Tea Mooncake1.5/6

  • This was made with a flaky crust that has no flavour, green tea paste filling, and a salted egg yolk.
  • I was actually excited to try this one because I love matcha flavoured stuff. This one was a no-go, and not only because I don’t like mooncake.
  • The green tea paste tastes like green beans to me and it was so chalky and thick almost like chewy gelatin. It was the thickest filling of all the flavours, but at least the egg yolk wasn’t dry.

Green Bean Mooncake2.5/6

  • This was made with a flaky crust, green bean filling, and a salted egg yolk.
  • This one totally grew on me. It was the sweetest and saltiest of all and the filling was the best. It was like super moist cake crumbs rather than pasty filling. It didn’t taste like beans at all. This was the one most suitable for “western” taste buds.
  • What was odd was that it tasted like curry. I thought it was curry flavour at first. I swear there’s curry or at least turmeric in it to give it the yellow colour.
  • This one was the crumbliest of them all, but most flavourful. Don’t think of it as a dessert or you won’t enjoy this one as much.

Red Bean Mooncake1/6

  • This was made with a flaky crust that has no flavour, red bean paste filling, and a salted egg yolk.
  • I’m biased, I don’t like red bean in any form.
  • The egg yolk was very dry in this one as well.

18 Comments

  • KimHo says:

    The moon cake says white lotus seed paste, basically the type of moon cake (others include red bean paste, dried/preserved fruits and nuts). The amount of yolks can vary to none, all the way to four yolks. I personally prefer one or two at most so that you can have a combination of both sweet and savoury. But, otherwise, given it is usually a once a year treat, hey! 😉

    As for the new versions, it is a bad joke of an old tradition. As mentioned, since this is a once per year event, go for the real thing.

  • Mijune says:

    KimHo – lol I think this is personal preference… as the real thing I really don’t like… but the contemporary takes on it… I’m way more willing to try. For me the old school version is for… older people lol… not all the new version are good, but those frozen ones are awesome! They’re like ice cream!

  • Mir says:

    Great post, june! Loved reading it. I don’t really like moon cake either, but it was still lovely to see all the different flavors and colors in the contemporary ones nowadays. And like you said, it’s nice to pay tribute to chinese traditions! By the way, Kim, the moon cake does say “white lotus” on the left side, but it also says “double yolk” on the right hand side. So you are right in that it describes the type of moon cake it is, but I think to complete the thought (and reading it from right to left) it says “seung wong bak leen”…double yolk white lotus…YO! 🙂

    Happy Mid-Autumn Festival Mijune, Kim and everyone!
    XX

  • Mijune says:

    Mir – Omg!! I have to rub my eyes!! Are you commenting!? AHHHH!! So excited!! Ok now let me get over you commenting and read your comment!

    LOL omg I love it!! And oh you guys and your skills!! thanks for translating! I thought it was “happy moon festival”… so good to know that I am SO wrong… and luckily I didn’t embarrass myself… although I kind of just did =p

    Thanks for commenting Mir! XX

  • Kathy says:

    Delicious post! I love mooncakes but my family and my boyfriend’s family don’t like them. I love the colorful photos of the mooncakes in the gold box from T & T. I want to try those. Luckily, most places give discounts on mooncakes after today. Yes! Also, I like eating mini mooncakes from Osaka Supermarket in Yaohan Centre in Richmond all year long. From what I can recall, they’re only just over $1.

  • Bow says:

    Moon cakes are based on the harvest time in China, 10th month, 15th day on the 12 year Chinese calendar; also the autumn solstice. When one cuts a mooncake in half, the duck egg yolk resembles the Harvest moon . I still like the mooncakes at the Keefer Bakery in China; traditional
    cakes with a wonderful rich flavour.

  • Bow says:

    I mean the Keefer Bakery in Chinatown, Vancouver.

  • Elaine says:

    Hehehe every year my mom buys mooncake back from HK. Those are the best! The ones here can’t compare >< personally I love the ones with 4 egg yolks though wahahaha XD

  • Mijune says:

    Kathy – wow $1 for mooncake is cheap! The ones from some of the gourmet bakeries are almost $40 for 4 large ones! Crazy!

    Bow – I was waiting for you to comment! I was hoping you could give me some Moon Festival/Cake history… and you did! So thank you!

    Elaine – lol wow! Really?!! 4?!? That’s a lot! I didn’t even know those existed!

  • Bow says:

    One shouldn’t post after going to the bar; it should be: the eighth month, 15th day.

  • Ryan's Mommy says:

    I buy the Taiwanese “bing pei” moon cakes from Mega Bakery @ Continental Plaza. They are medium mochi mooncakes…super yummy. They come in different flavours: red bean, green bean, yellow bean, red tea, green tea, mango, black sesame, taro and a couple of ones that don’t come to mind. $1/each and you can mix and match different flavours. They are the best: not too sweet, no salty duck egg yolk (if that’s not your thing) and the mochi skin! My fave is the black sesame (very similar to tze mah tong yuen) and the taro.

    You must try next year!

  • Mijune says:

    Ryan’s Mommy – really!?! they have mochi mooncakes there?!? mmmmm sounds so good! I’d like the mango one I think. I ove mochi. And no egg yolk? Wow they should make these all year round! Thanks for commenting!

  • Nathan Chan says:

    You can find the “bing pei” ones at Yaohan too. One thing I’ve noticed allergy-wise is that the pastry shell is often seems to have egg brushed on as a glaze (like the baked buns from Chinese bakeries) and the lotus seed paste often taste like they use peanut oil, so it’s not exactly an allergy-friendly food.

  • Mijune says:

    @Nathan Chan I think your right about the egg wash they use… and about the peanut oil. Good pointers because that could cause some major problems for people that don’t know what it is. Thanks for commenting!

  • Anonymous says:

    I love moon cake!

    And it says White Lotus (paste) with double egg yolks 🙂
    雙黃白蓮

  • Mijune says:

    lol thank you! yes I had a few commenters help translate as well 🙂

  • Mooncake Hunter says:

    Does Anyone know where I can get an 8″ moon cake right now?

  • Mijune says:

    @Mooncake Hunter – I didn’t even know they made them so big!

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