Whether you're looking for an elegant bite, a sweet treat for the kids or an altogether healthier option, Gayatri Bhaumik unpacks Hong Kong's yummiest mooncakes this autumn.
Treat yourself to a mooncake this Mid-Autumn Festival.
Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong falls on October 1 this year. And for this foodie city, that means one thing - mooncakes. But what is the festival and why are mooncakes the traditional treat?
At its core, Mid-Autumn Festival is a celebration of the harvest and the autumn full moon. The phrase ‘mid-autumn’ appeared for the first time in the Rites of Zhou, a work about the court rituals of the Western Zhou dynasty (1046-711BCE). By the late 19th century, the festival had become so popular that the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi staged lavish celebrations at court.
These days, Mid-Autumn Festival is largely marked by gatherings with lanterns on beaches and parks and in family homes across Hong Kong and tucking into the ubiquitous mooncakes. These pastries – which get more innovative and lavish each year – are a hallmark of the festival. Their round shape is a symbol of completeness and reunion; traditionally, they’re shared among family members to signify family unity.
Traditional mooncakes vary widely depending on the region in which they are produced. The pastry crust is baked into a shape or design and filled with anything from lotus seed paste, sweet bean paste, jujube paste or mixed nuts and seeds. A yellow egg yolk in the centre signifies the full moon. Modern takes on the sweet treat have embraced ice cream, praline and chocolate centres.
If you believe the folklore, though, it was Tang Emperor Taizong who originated the idea of the mooncake. According to legend, a Turpan businessman offered the Emperor cakes to celebrate his victory against the Xiongnu in the eighth lunar month; the Emperor pointed to the moon as a good omen and shared the cakes with his ministers. Thus, the custom of sharing mooncakes was born.
The Peninsula Hong Kong
The mooncakes from Hong Kong’s Grande Dame are legendary - and with good reason. They’re probably the best traditional mooncakes you’ll ever taste. Created by Spring Moon, the property’s Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant, these mini egg custard mooncakes (HK$580/box) are truly indulgent bites of bliss. This year, you can also get these coveted cupcakes in mini heart-shaped editions – there are only 2,020 boxes available (HK$630/box). Your purchase will do some good, too. For every box sold, HK$50 will go to ImpactHK, a charity that addresses homelessness in the city.
Where to buy: The Peninsula Boutique, The Peninsula, Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong and online.
Rosewood Hong Kong
This opulent property is whipping up equally luxurious Mid-Autumn Festival treats this year. Rosewood Hong Kong has created a series of flavoured mooncakes, so you’re sure to find one to suit. Will it be the traditional white lotus mooncake (HK$494 for four), the decadent chocolate mooncakes (HK$438 for four), or perhaps the special Legacy House mini egg custard mooncakes (HK$428 for four)? If you’re looking for an appropriately festive gift, the mooncakes come presented in beautifully artistic boxes featuring renderings of Hong Kong icons. Your purchase will do some good, too. Rosewood Hong Kong is also supporting ImpactHK by donating a lunchbox for each mooncake box sold.
Where to buy: Butterfly Patisserie, Rosewood Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong and online.
Feather and Bone
The Mid-Autumn Festival may be a traditional celebration but that doesn’t mean your mooncakes have to be run of the mill. Hong Kong’s favourite neighbourhood butcher is putting a meaty twist on the mooncake by swapping the traditional egg yolk and custard fillings for Valenca free-range pork and Tuscan Lardo di Colonnata. That means mouthwatering savoury mooncakes featuring a buttery, flaky pastry and a meaty filling liberally spiced with nutmeg, sage, thyme, and garlic. The pork mooncakes are available for HK$178 for a pack of two.
Where to buy: Feather & Bone outlets Hong Kong-wide and online.
Kee Wah Bakery
This year, Kee Wah is launching autumnal fig and nut mini mooncakes that are sure to appeal to everyone. But, if you’re going to be gifting mooncakes to kids, you’ll want to get your hands the Sanrio Characters egg custard mooncake gift box (HK$188 for four pieces). Inside, the mini mooncakes feature custard or chocolate custard fillings, and are stamped with the faces of Hello Kitty, My Melody, Pompompurin and Bad Badtz-Maru.
Where to buy: Kee Wah Bakery outlets Hong Kong-wide and online.
This celebrated New York patisserie is branching out from its signature mille crêpes to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. In collaboration with Netflix, Lady M has created a mooncake lantern gift set (HK$528) inspired by the service’s upcoming animated movie Over The Moon. The stylish gold and jade lanterns feature intricate, laser-cut images from the film; inside, you’ll find six individually wrapped Lady M mooncakes. The sweet treats come in two flavours – a classic sweet egg custard with the Lady M logo on top, and a chocolate custard version stamped with an image of the mythical moon rabbit.
Where to buy: Lady M boutiques outlets Hong Kong-wide (except the airport outlet) and online.
Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
This palatial city centre hotel has a treasure trove of mooncakes this Mid-Autumn Festival. Try classic options like white lotus with yolk, golden lotus with yolk, or egg custard, or go modern with the mini assorted mooncakes which come in egg custard, chocolate lava, and vanilla custard flavours (HK$438/six pieces). Going all out? Grab the gift box (HK$2,188) which includes six white lotus mooncakes, a bottle of La Rose Bellevue wine from Grappe Diem Château, candied ginger chocolate, and Mandarin Oriental’s homemade XO sauce.
Where to buy: The Mandarin Cake Shop, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong and online.
W Hong Kong
This personality-filled hotel has created a series of equally fun offerings to celebrate this Mid-Autumn Festival. Created by the hotel’s Sing Yin Cantonese Dining restaurant, the mooncakes are available in two varieties – white lotus seed paste with two egg yolks, or mini golden custard mooncakes. The bites are presented in a silver W-branded briefcase box, alongside two teabags of fragrant, premium Wuyi big red robe tea from Yú Teahouse (HK$438 for four pieces or HK$468 for six pieces). Looking to up the ante? Grab the Mooncake & Bubbles set (HK$888) which comes with two boxes of mini golden custard mooncakes and two bottles of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne.
Where to buy: Sing Yin Cantonese Dining, W Hong Kong, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong and online.