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Traditional Mooncakes in China – 4 Main Mooncakes and 12 Types of Regional Variations

Which is your favourite Mooncake?

This year the Mid-Autumn Festival, Zhongqiu Jie (中秋节) in Chinese, also known as the Mooncake Festival or Moon Festival, falls on 29th September 2023. It is one of China's biggest holidays. It is also a popular festival celebrated in many other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore.

In the past it was a time to celebrate the successful harvest of rice and wheat, with food offerings to the moon. In modern times, we still continue to celebrate this with family and friends, eating this beautiful delicacy called Mooncakes (little round pastries with a sweet filling) and drinking tea, enjoying the beauty of the full moon. There are also parades and children enjoy carrying brightly lit lanterns in the evening.

The protagonist of this festival, other than the full moon, is clearly the mooncakes.

In China, there are four main types of mooncakes (depending on the origin, sales volume and features):

  • Cantonese-style

  • Beijing-style

  • Suzhou-style

  • Chaoshan-style

There have been other variations of classification and there is still debate on this. Some categorised the Chaoshan and Hong Kong into Cantonese-style, and included another Yunnan-style. As the Cantonese ones differ from the Chaoshan ones in terms of ingredients, cooking methods, appearance and flavour, some do not agree they should be put together.

Still, a mooncake by any other name would taste just as delicious, and we love trying all of them! Today we take you on a delicious treat to get to know all the different types of moonckaes!

What are the different types of mooncakes?

(1) By flavour: Sweet, Salty, Salty sweet, Spicy

(2) By filling: Osmanthus, Prunes, Five nuts, Red Bean Paste, Rose, Lotus Seed Paste, Rock sugar, Ginkgoes, Dried meat floss, Black sesame, Ham, Yolks, etc.

(Note: Nowadays new adventurous flavours have come up, such as Durian, Pandan, Taro, Sweet Potato etc.)

(3) By crust: Pulp crust, Sugar mixed crust, Crisp crust, Cream crust, etc.

(4) By appearance: Smooth, Laced

12 Types of Traditional Mooncakes - by Region

At present, the most widely known classification of traditional mooncakes is by the place of origin, ignoring the characteristics of the mooncake itself.

1. Cantonese-style Mooncake

This is a sweet or salty mooncake with a thin crust.

A thin crust and large fillings are typical of Cantonese-style mooncakes. For the filling, you can find lotus seed paste, coconut paste, yolks, bean paste, jujube paste or various meat. These mooncakes taste soft, and it is recommended to accompany them with tea.

Traditional Mooncakes with typical lotus paste with 1-2 egg yolks and in South East Asia we added Pandan flavour and it's known as "Jade Mooncake", jade being an auspicious element.

2. Chaoshan-style Mooncake

For those who like it soft with a crispy crust, oily but not greasy, and you can get it sweet or savoury.

The Chaoshan-style mooncake, or the Teochew mooncake, is a famous traditional flaky mooncake originating from the Chaoshan area of Guangdong Province. It has different types of stuffing e.g. mung bean mooncake, black bean mooncake, seafood mooncake, yolks mooncake, etc. The kernel inside the stuffing is usually yolks or seafood.

These are Teochew flaky mooncakes Pandan & Dragonfruit and Butterfly Pea + Dragonfruit flaky skin mooncake, with low sugar red bean & one egg yolk filling by Elizabeth Tang in Perth. The centre shows Purple Sweet Potato Mooncake with taro filling by Chef Catherine Teo. She loves our Purple Sweet Potato powder!

3. Beijing-style Mooncake - Mom's favourite

This is for those with a sweet tooth!

If you're looking to make a royal treat, this is for you. Its distinctive feature is the cooking method which has been handed down from the ancient royal palace! Imagine eating a piece of history! The process of selecting materials and making it is quite complicated, so it's not the best mooncake to start learning to make. The fillings are made of nuts, sweet-scented osmanthus, and rock sugar, etc. It is exquisite in appearance, and the crust is thin and crispy, making it a hot favourite with a lot of foodies.

4. Shanghai-style Mooncake

Don't like the sweet stuff? Fear not, there's a savoury version for those who like it salty!

This is a kind of baked flaky mooncake, and it tastes the best soon after it is fresh from the oven. The stuffing is fresh pork, which gives it a smooth taste. The crust is crispy, and the rich gravy soaks beautifully into it, making it extremely delicious. You'll be having more than one, definitely!

Sally Choo has contributed her recipe for Pandan Shanghai Mooncake, so stay tuned for our next blog!

5. Hong Kong-style Mooncake

This keeps everyone happy as it's both salty and sweet!

This is representative of Hong Kong and the filling is made of white lotus seed paste with double yolks. Again, it's quite an elaborate process when it comes to the ingredients and process. The final product is to die for though - thin even crust, with two salty golden egg yolks perfectly centred with silky red oil. This is a smooth tasting mooncake. There are also other Hong Kong variations such as five nuts, salty meat and ham mooncake.

6. Suzhou-style Mooncake

You can get this sweet or salty, and it is heavy on the oil but not greasy.

This is a crispy mooncake. The sweet ones have fillings such as rose petals, five nuts and bean paste, which is tightly pressed. Do be warned though, that this tends to be sweeter than mooncakes of other regions. The salty one come in spiced salt mooncakes, ham mooncakes, shallot mooncakes, shrimp mooncakes, etc.

7. Yunnan-style Mooncake

This is typically sweet and a little salty. It's oily but not greasy.

This is also famously known as ham mooncake because the stuffing is made from Xuanwei ham, a specialty in Yunnan, mixed with honey, lard and white sugar. The crust is also special as it's made from purple wheat flour from Chenggong in Kunming. It's quite a hard crust, and after baking it looks golden yellow or brownish red, oily and simply gorgeous. Ham lovers will enjoy the fragrant flavour of the meat.

8. Anhui-style Mooncake

This can be sweet or salty.

Typically, it has a thin crust and full stuffing. It's also smaller than other types of mooncakes, giving it a delicate, adorable look. The crust is made by mixing fine flour and vegetable oil. The stuffing is interesting as it is made of various marinated vegetables mixed with fresh pork oil and white sugar. There is even a signature prune mooncake. By now you must wondering is there anything you can't find in mooncakes?! And this is only #8 on the list!

9. Quzhou-style Mooncake

In short, sweet and crispy with a touch of sesame.

Sesame is the key ingredient here. It is used in the stuffing or used to decorate the skin. On some of the larger sized mooncakes, people would even paint auspicious images with coloured sesame. Talk about a work of art, both inside and outside!

10. Shaanxi-style Mooncake

Sweet but not greasy is what this mooncake is.

If you're not into meat, then this is for you as it's mainly vegetal, and are locally known as Crystal Cakes. The stuffing is a mixture of sugar, nuts, animal or vegetable oil, preserved fruits, roses and orange peels. It has a more desiccated feel and the crust is thicker than most mooncakes.

As you can see so far, there are so many types of Mooncakes and you can create them yourself and experiment! Like this Lotus Mooncake with Butterfly Pea blue colour (recipe on our FB Page) and Persimmon Mooncake with Pandan lotus paste that looks as good as it tastes.

11. Shanxi-style Mooncake

If you like it sweet and crispy, try this one.

The ingredients for the crust include oil, sugar and eggs, and for the stuffing you can find jujube paste, five nuts, red sugar, osmanthus, etc. The most common and popular one is the sugar mixed mooncake where different sugars are added into both the crust and stuffing. Definitely for those who have a real sweet tooth!

12. Fengzhen Mooncake

Here's another one for those who like it sweet.

Interestingly enough, there is no stuffing in this mooncake from Inner Mongolia. You mix the fried linseed oil, syrup of red sugar and flour into a dough, and let it rise. Then it is divided into smaller balls of dough, then pressed and baked with sesame and linseed oil on the surface. While most mooncakes are best eaten fresh, this mooncake tastes better two or three days after baking, when the colour gets darker. So you'll need a bit of patience with this one to resist temptation after making it!

There you go, twelve amazing mooncakes that have probably left you drooling by now! Let's take a look at other non-traditional mooncakes as well.

Non-traditional Mooncakes from various countries

Snow skin mooncake | My Blue Tea

Snow Skin Mooncake: What a beautiful name for a mooncake, isn't it? The crust is translucent and milky white, giving it a beautiful, delicate, porcelain snowy look. It is made with steamed glutinous rice powder. For this mooncake, try leaving it in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours before eating it. It tastes great slightly cold!

The ones you see here are "Dragonfruit Snowskin Mooncake" contributed by Emily in Melbourne.

Jelly mooncake  | My Blue Tea

Jelly Mooncake: This is another pretty one! Sometimes called Crystal Mooncake, it stands out with its striking colours. It is smooth with a chewy taste and it's actually a lighter mooncake than the others, making it healthier to eat. Remember to store it in the refrigerator.

The skin is made from starch, pudding powder or jelly powder. You can even see through it to the fillings inside.

Chinese Tea Mooncake: Pandan tea Powder is added to the crust or stuffing, giving the mooncake a hint of tea fragrance.

When you start exploring mooncakes, you'll see there is an infinite variety, and it would be impossible to cover all of them here! There are mooncakes made from fruits and vegetables, coconut milk, seafood, mustard, miscellaneous grains, and even ice cream (!). You can find health care mooncakes containing nutrients such as ginseng, calcium, and Chinese herbs; pictographic mooncakes and mini mooncakes that children love; and French mooncakes and Japanese mooncakes, which are becoming more and more popular! Why not invent your own style of mooncake? Remember to share it with us!

Mooncakes + Tea

Because of the sweet taste of the mooncake, people often have it with tea to ease the taste up a bit. Tea is considered a healthy drink because it's rich in antioxidants that can help to digest your food faster.

This Mid-autumn, why not brew a pot of our Jasmine Green tea and sit back and relax with some delicious mooncakes? This Jasmine Green Tea has a greater depth of flavour than green tea and a lighter taste than black oolong tea. Check out our tea blends and experiment with pairing them up with different mooncakes!

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1 Comment

Oct 02, 2023

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