The many meanings of mooncakes

Mid-Autumn Festival is often remembered as the mooncake-eating celebration.

There are many regional variations of this ethnic-Chinese treat, but the most familiar style of mooncakes are the Cantonese ones.

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Traditional mooncakes are recognized as a small round pastry with a thin crust, a dense sticky lotus seed filling and a salted duck egg yolk in the center – the yolk representing the full moon in the sky when the pastry is cut in half.

“Traditional mooncake is made as a way of remembering the cultural heritage (in the form of) a recipe passed down from our families and ancestors,” said Mickey Zhao, president of Saint Germain Bakery, adding that the particular mooncake recipe brings forward traditions.

Zhao said that the mooncakes is a way to celebrate Chinese gatherings and brings families and friends together for the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Harvest Full Moon celebrations.

“We can’t deviate from the traditional mooncake recipe, but the snowskin mooncake is like a dessert and can change accordingly to taste.”

Compared to the traditional, heavy and filling mooncake, the snowskin mooncake is recognized for their variety of flavours and delicate aesthetics resembling a full moon.

Marina Szijarto, the Harvest Full Moon Project coordinator, is always amazed with the mooncake availability and how the celebration brings people together.

Szijarto explains that the two celebrations – the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Harvest Full Moon Celebration – are similar, but different in respect to their cultural traditions.

She enjoys making snowskin mooncakes which she finds is a way that “brings in gratitude, connect with people and celebrate as a community across cultural boundaries.”

“A basic snowskin mooncake recipe … is exciting; you can flavor them in many different ways,” said Szijarto, adding that the snowskin is “very multicultural because they can be any colour, any flavor.”

At a workshop on Friday, Szijarto taught a group of fellow Richmondites how to make a vegetarian type of snowskin mooncake with fillings that ranged from apricot to chocolate banana paired with black bean paste all wrapped in a white (or colourful) “snowskin” mochi layer.

Szijarto and Zhao both agree that the snowskin mooncakes are becoming more popular than the traditional ones because it is healthier and contains less fat and sugar.

However, Richmond’s local chocolatier shop, Wild Sweets, have taken a unique twist to the mooncake celebration with their limited-edition release of chocolates.

Chocolatier duo, Dominique and Cindy Duby, wanted to bring together the concept of “east-meets-west” in their chocolates for Mid-Autumn Festival.

“Instead of using traditional flavours, we’re bringing together eastern and western flavours,” said Dominique, adding that their product was inspired by the Taiwanese pineapple cake.

The chocolate ‘Mooncakes’, also known as chocolate Bouchée, are enrobed in dark chocolate and decorated with an embossed disc cookie that resembles the look and shape of a traditional mooncake but with a sweet twist of assorted flavours to the dessert.

Dominique explained that there are three different flavours in each chocolate which “complement each other and without each one the taste wouldn’t be as good,” this represents an “aromatic synergy” and the wholeness of what Mid-Autumn Festival means to a community.

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