Mid-autumn Festival and Mooncake Recipes
It’s this time of the year again – the Mid-autumn Festival. The festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, is also known as the Mooncake or Lantern festival. On this day, the moon is at its fullest and it is a tradition for families and friends to gather with lanterns to admire the full moon and eat mooncake.
Vendors selling mooncake are already out in full force, with colourful stalls set-up in most major shopping malls. As you can see, the atmosphere is festive and crowded; waves of people are thronging through stalls trying out sampling portions of various mooncake offerings. Business is brisk; in particular mooncake stalls by top hotels and famous bakeries are swarming with people like hordes of hungry bees to honey.
Of course, not to miss out on the action, I was also there soaking in the atmosphere and trying out the various offerings. I can say each year is definitely getting better, with the introduction of more unique and innovative flavours.
The traditional filling in mooncake recipes is the lotus seed paste. In the past, fillings made from green tea, sesame seed, or sweet potato pastes were considered unique. Times have indeed change, now we have fillings of bird’s nest, shark’s fin, custard, jellies, ice cream, and chocolate truffles.
Mid-autumn Festival and Mooncake Recipes – The Legend of Chang’e
As with most Chinese festivals, there’s always a story behind it. There are many variations of the legend behind the Mid-autumn festival, but the one I like best is the legend of Houyi and Chang’e.
According to legend, Chang’e and her husband Houyi, a skillful archer were immortals living in heaven. One fine day, the ten sons of the Jade Emperor turned themselves into ten suns; scorching earth till the heat was unbearable. Wanting to save earth, Houyi used his archery skills to shoot down all but one sun. The Jade Emperor was angry when he learnt that nine of his sons were killed, and banished Houyi and Chang’e to live their lives as mere mortals on earth.
Having lost her immortality, Chang’e was depressed and longed to be an immortal again. Houyi decided go on a search for the magical pill of immortality. His quest took him to the Queen Mother of the West, who agreed to give him the magical pill. Before he left, she warned him, “Each of you would only need half a pill to become an immortal.”
Happily the great archer went back home and kept the magic pill in a box. He reminded Chang’e not to open the box before he left home to run an errand. However, being naturally curious, Chang’e couldn’t help but opened the box and found the magical pill. Just then, Houyi returned home and nervous on being discovered, Chang’e accidentally swallowed the whole pill.
Chang’e began to fly and float towards the sky. Houyi wanted to shoot his wife down but couldn’t bear to do so. In the end, Chang’e kept floating until she reached the moon and is now known as the Chinese goddess of the Moon. Every year, on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Houyi visits his wife. That’s why the moon is especially full and beautiful on that night.
Mid-autumn Festival – Mooncake Recipes
Bear in mind that most of the mooncake selling out there are out-sourced to commercial factory for mass-production. These days, very few hotels and restaurants bake their own mooncake. It’s the different branding and packaging that commands such sky-high prices for mooncake. Besides, nothing beats home-made stuff; the satisfaction and pride when you made your own mooncake is beyond description. If you’d always wanted to bake your own mooncake, but never knew how to get started, congratulations. I’m going to share with you my mooncake recipes here.
You can get all the mooncake recipes ingredients from the wooden moulds to packaging boxes here at:
- Kwong Cheong Thye - this Chinese condiments retail shop is located at No. 61-63, Lorong 27 Geylang.
- Baking supplier Phoon Huat. They have retail outlets all around the island. Just Google and you can locate an outlet near you.
To add crunch or texture into the paste, you can toast nuts or melon seeds and fold them into cooled paste. Some people like egg yolks in their mooncakes. To prepare the yolks, lightly coat duck yolks with sesame oil and steam or bake until just cooked. The sesame oil will lend a slight fragrance to the yolks.
If you like to bake your own mooncakes but do not want to cook your own paste, packets of ready-made paste with different flavours ranging from green tea to red bean are available for sale at the above-mentioned mooncake supplies shops.
Here comes the fun part, moulding the mooncakes:
- First, you need to roll the paste into a ball. Now is the time to insert the cooked yolk if you like it
- Use enough of the dough (snow skin or baked mooncake skin dough) to wrap the paste fully. Roll it into a ball.
- Lightly flour the mooncake mould with fried glutinous rice flour for snow skin mooncake, plain flour for baked mooncake and shake off any excess.
- Press the ball into the mould. It should fit just nicely. If there is any excess sticking out, it means that the mooncake filling is too much and you should take out some. (I can’t give you an exact amount of filling to put in as every mooncake mould is different.)
- Knock the mould on all four directions on a hard surface (a thick telephone directory is perfect for this purpose) so that the imprints of the mould is etched firmly onto the mooncake.
- Knock the mooncake out.
- Store your snowskin mooncake in the refrigerator. They can be eaten right away. For baked mooncake, remember to rest it for a day or two after baking.
- Enjoy with family and friends under the moon.