As early as the Shang (17th century BC - 1046 BC) and Zhou (1046 - 256 BC) dynasties in what today are Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces in east China, there was a kind of “Taishi cake” thick at the center and thin at the edge, which was the origin of the mooncake. In the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), sesame and walnuts were introduced into China, and round cookies filled with these ingredients appeared. In the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD), the name “mooncake” was used for the first time and gradually became well-known nationwide. It was not until the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD) that the custom of eating these cookies during the Mid-Autumn Festival got popular. It was also during this period that the cookie makers started to print different patterns on the surface to express best wishes.
Why are mooncakes round?
What does the mooncake symbolize? Mooncakes are generally made round to symbolize the full moon. The cake is made round also because Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for family reunion and “round” has a similar pronunciation with “reunion” in Chinese.
Why do we eat mooncakes on Mooncake Festival?
On the festival day, all families eat mooncakes, or more traditionally, share one to celebrate the family reunion.
Types of Mooncakes
Traditional mooncakes are divided into four types based on their place of origin: Cantonese-style, Suzhou-style, Beijing-style and Chaoshan-style. As time passed by, more types appeared: Hong Kong-style, Shanghai-style, Yunnan style, Shaanxi style…
By mooncake flavor: There are sweet, salty, salty sweet, spicy… ones.
By filling: We can find five nuts, red bean paste, jujube paste, black sesame, lotus seed paste, lotus seed paste with egg yolk, meat, ham, fruit… ones.
By crust: The most commonly seen is white crisp or golden soft crust made with wheat flour. Besides, snowy skin crust made with glutinous rice flour, jelly crust made with jelly powder can also be found in the market.
By shape: In addition to the most popular round smooth or laced ones, there are also those shaped into cute animals, flowers, and other auspicious patterns.
In recent years, more and more creative mooncakes popped up, including those made with ice cream, tea, coarse cereals, chocolate, sugar-free to meet the demands of different diners.
Are Mooncakes Unhealthy?
Most mooncakes contain high sugar and oil, so are not healthy. People suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, hyperlipoidemia, stomach disease, hepatobiliary disease, and the overweight, old and little kids should not eat too much or stay away from them.
How to Eat Chinese Moon Cakes Healthily:
To decrease the harmfulness the high fat and calorie bringing to our body, some foods are recommended to eat together with mooncakes, including tea, sour fruit like grapefruit, hawthorn and kiwifruit and wine. They help digest, take away fat in our body, so to avoid retention of food in the stomach and obesity. Also, do not eat too much at one time.
Where to Buy Mooncake – Best Mooncake in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, NYC…
In China, you can get mooncakes easily in any supermarket, cookie stores, and food stores around the Mid-Autumn Festival. In other time, some big supermarkets and cookie stores also sell it. The best brands include Beijing Daoxiangcun, Hong Kong MX, Ganso, Holiland, Xinghualou and Maky. Overseas, they are also seen in China towns, bakery stores, and supermarkets around the festival.
Best Mooncakes in Beijing:
Wangfujing Branch: 1F, Wangfujing Department Store, Dongcheng District
Nanluoguxiang Branch: 50m (55 yd) northwest to the junction of Nanluoguxiang and Chaodou Hutong
Capital Airport: 2F, T2; 4F, T3
South Railway Station: 2F
Best Mooncakes in Shanghai
Where Can I Buy Mooncake in NYC?
Elmhurst Branch: 8118 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373
Flushing Branch: 136-55 37th Avenue, Flushing, NY 11354
Shanghai You Garden
Location: 135-33 40th Rd, Flushing, NY 11354
Dragon Bay Bakery
How Much is a Mooncake?
The price of different types and brands of Chinese moon cakes varies a lot. Generally, the cheapest ones are around CNY3 per piece; the simply wrapped ones from famous brands are about CNY 7-15 per piece while the delicately wrapped ones are around CNY30-40 per piece.
How to Store Mooncakes
1. Generally, five nuts mooncakes can be kept for about 15 days at a temperature below 25℃ (77 F) and those filled with sweet bean paste, lotus seed paste and jujube paste less than 10 days; if the temperature is higher than 30℃ (86 F), the storage period should be no longer than 7 days; for fillings of fresh meat, chicken shreds and ham, one should buy them just before eating.
2. Keep in a cool, dry, ventilated place and avoid storage in direct sunlight or near sources of heat. Chinese moon cakes contain rich oil and sugar, so both heat and humidity can cause them to go bad.
3. Store them in a separate place so they don't pick up odors from other foods.
4. Handle gently. Some types of the cookies, such as Yunnan-style, have soft, loose crusts. Any mishandling may break them.