29 July 2011
Also known as Mooncake or Lantern Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated by the Chinese on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. This year, the festival falls on 12 September.
The festival commemorates the uprising against the Mongols in the 14th century. Legend has it that plans for the uprising were hidden inside small cakes and distributed to compatriots. Over time, sweet mooncakes became a symbol of the festival. Another legend tells of Chang Er (Lady of the Moon) who floated to the moon after swallowing her husband’s elixir of immortality.
During this festival, Chinese families gather for a reunion dinner feasting on sweet mooncakes, pomelos and other festive treats, while children play with brightly lit lanterns.
For generations, mooncakes have been traditionally filled with white lotus seed paste, often balanced with a savoury single or double salted egg yolk. There are also traditional mooncake varities made with red lotus seed paste, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, melon seeds, mixed nuts and jing hua ham, yam and red bean.
In recent years, snowskin mooncakes featuring smooth translucent skin have become very popular, with pastry chefs coming up with new and innovative flavours and fillings every year. Popular flavours include champagne truffle, chocolate, mango, green tea and black sesame.
Most hotels and Chinese restaurants start selling mooncakes about six weeks before the festival, and most places allow you to sample the goodies, so you can try before you buy.