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In ancient times, mooncakes were a kind of offering to the moon. Over the centuries, these special cakes have become the most popular food of the Mid-Autumn Festival. They are named after the moon goddess (Chang'e), who is said to make this kind of cake.
Mooncakes typically measure around 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) across and up to 5 cm (2 inches) deep. Most mooncakes have a pastry skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling.
Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges during the festival, and shared by family members. They are generally served with Chinese tea, and, very rarely, mooncakes are served steamed or fried.
In Chinese culture, roundness symbolizes completeness and togetherness. A full moon symbolizes prosperity and reunion for the whole family. Round mooncakes complement the harvest moon in the night sky at the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The mooncake is not just a food. It's a profound cultural tradition deep in Chinese people's hearts, symbolizing a spiritual feeling. At Mid-Autumn Festival people eat mooncakes together with family, or present mooncakes to relatives or friends, to express love and best wishes.
The types of filling vary according to the region's traditions. The most used fillings are as follows:
We have more on The Top 10 Mooncake Flavors.
Across China, mooncakes vary according to different regional styles and flavors. Mooncake fillings depend on local eating culture and traditions. The most popular variations include:
Cantonese-style mooncakes originate from Southeast China's Guangdong Province. The ingredients used in the fillings are various. The most used ingredients include lotus seed paste, melon seed paste, ham, chicken, duck, roast pork, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Cantonese-style mooncakes taste sweet.
This style is the typical variation in North China. It originated in Beijing and Tianjin. It features the delicate use of sweetness and meticulous decoration. The common proportion of pastry and filling for Beijing-style mooncakes is 4:6.
Suzhou-style mooncakes (Su mooncakes for short) represent the Yangtze Delta region around Shanghai. Su mooncakes appeared more than a thousand years ago. They are well known throughout China for their layers of flaky pastry and generous allotment of sugar and lard. There are both sweet and savory Suzhou mooncakes.
Chaoshan is a region of Guangdong in SE China where many ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand come from. Chaoshan-style mooncakes have a distinct crust. They are larger than most other mooncakes. The most commonly used fillings are mung bean paste, and black bean and potato paste.
The two most famous Yunnan-style mooncakes are ham mooncakes and flower mooncakes.
Ham mooncakes are delicious with fillings of diced ham and sweet honey. The flavor are both sweet and a little bit salty.
Flowers are popular in Yunnan as cake fillings. Fresh roses or other edible flowers are wrapped in the pastry skin of flower mooncakes.
Ice-skin mooncakes were first popular among Hong Kongers. The skin of the mooncakes is not made of ice. They got this name because their skins are white, and are not baked in an oven, but stored in a refrigerator instead.
The cost of a mooncake is actually quite low for one mooncake. But mooncakes in beautiful and luxury packs are sold in a higher price. Mooncake boxes can be very beautiful, and sometimes the boxes are more expensive than the mooncakes themselves!
Different brands have their own unique designation of packaging, mostly colorful tins and card boxes. Mooncakes are generously packaged in their small-case-sized gift boxes. Typically there are several small boxes on a piece of yellow or red silk. Each small box contains a mooncake in a transparent air-tight wrapper, with an anti-oxidation sachet to keep it fresh.
One month before Mid-Autumn Festival you can see mooncakes everywhere in China. Many supermarkets and hotels will sell a variety of mooncakes in elaborate gift boxes. Mooncakes sold in supermarkets or hotels are more expensive, and better packaged, than those sold at street markets, even for the same brand.
Chinese people prefer to buy gifts for their family or friends in a supermarket, as the attractive packaging will gain them 'face’, i.e. honor.
Mooncakes sold on the street or local market are often cheaper, and sometimes with more delicious flavors. At markets mooncakes are often sold in bulk in transparent cellophane. People buy mooncakes in local markets for their cheap price and tasty flavor if the cakes are to be eaten by themselves, otherwise they buy them in a supermarket.
The price range of mooncakes is very wide. The price depends on the flavor and packaging.
In general the price for a red bean paste, lotus seed paste, or vegetable and fruit mooncake is 5–10 yuan. Five kernel and roast pork flavor is more expensive, about 10–20 yuan each.
Gift boxes are often priced from 100 to 200 yuan (with 5 to 9 mooncakes inside), with the price depending more on the packaging than the mooncakes.
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