The cookbook creator Betty Liu grew up in a California neighborhood with many Chinese bakeries however couldn’t depend on them to fulfill her mooncake cravings.
“Most of them only sold the classic molded Cantonese mooncake,” she mentioned. Ms. Liu’s mother and father are from Shanghai, the place mooncakes are flaky and spherical, filled with juicy pork. Cantonese mooncakes, then again, are dense, hockey puck-shaped pastries with comfortable, chewy crusts.
When Ms. Liu posted concerning the pork mooncakes on her Instagram, folks accused her of inauthenticity, though it was a recipe from her mom, who based mostly it on reminiscences of those she had eaten in China. “I got a couple of comments that were like: ‘These aren’t mooncakes. Don’t pass them off as mooncakes,’” Ms. Liu mentioned. “But they were only familiar with the Cantonese style.”
These savory, glazed mooncakes, from a recipe by Betty Liu, are filled with punchy dollops of floor pork.Credit…Christopher Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist; Simon Andrews.
While there are various regional mooncake variations all through Asia, individuals are most conversant in the Cantonese iterations as a result of the primary Asian bakeries outdoors Asia have been Cantonese. They additionally turned the backyard selection around the globe due to the worldwide affect of Hong Kong, the place Cantonese delicacies is the usual.
In the late 1950s and ’60s, mooncakes “became known as a gifting item,” mentioned Max Wong, the manager director of Kee Wah Bakery, a Hong Kong establishment that has been round since 1938 and now manufactures over 10 million mooncakes a 12 months. Before then, the pastries have been baked solely through the Mid-Autumn Festival, an annual occasion that celebrates the complete moon when it’s believed to be at its brightest. Mooncakes have been ready for private consumption or to be offered as choices to the moon. When Hong Kong turned a world monetary hub within the 1960s, nevertheless, the pastries have been commercialized and broadly circulated — bundled in elaborate packaging and given to shoppers and associates.
Max Wong, the manager director of Kee Wah Bakery, a Hong Kong establishment that manufactures over 10 million mooncakes a 12 months.Credit…Nathan Tsui for The New York Times
Though the Cantonese model often is the one greatest identified internationally, there is no such thing as a set rubric for the pastry. “Where we are, we stuff it with ham. It is a specialty of Yunnan,” mentioned Dong Meihua, referring to the province in southwestern China the place she lives within the countryside. Ms. Dong, who produces widespread cooking movies on YouTube underneath the title Dianxi Xiaoge, makes her mooncakes with selfmade aged ham sweetened with honey. Cooked in a charcoal oven, they’re pillowy and spherical, like golden orbs.
Staying true to the unique intention of the autumn vacation, which falls this 12 months on Sept. 21, Ms. Dong places out a platter of mooncakes as a present to the moon and lights sticks of incense over them as a present of gratitude for the annual harvest. “We put our best ingredients into our mooncakes,” she mentioned. “It’s the highest form of respect to the Mid-Autumn Festival.”
Chong Suan, a proprietor of Chuan Ji Bakery in Singapore, pays his respects through the holidays by encasing melon and sesame seeds, shallots, rose sugar, preserved lime and orange peels in a skinny crust that’s then gently pressed right into a picket, hand-carved mildew. “It’s more like a biscuit,” he mentioned, describing the feel. He inherited the 95-year-old recipe from his grandmother, who immigrated to Singapore within the 1920s from Hainan, an island province of China.
The baker Kristina Cho has channeled a standard spirit of extravagance by stuffing her mooncakes with blitzed pistachios and honey.Credit…Christopher Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist; Simon Andrews.
The pastry has continued to evolve with successive generations and because it travels throughout continents. The Chinese American blogger and cookbook creator Kristina Cho makes a rendition with crushed pistachios and honey filling enveloped in a Cantonese molded crust. “Pistachios are luxurious to me,” she mentioned.
If the intention of a mooncake is to indicate off the most effective of a area, then what it’s made from will at all times be up for interpretation. “It doesn’t really matter what shape or size it comes in,” Ms. Cho mentioned. “A mooncake is something that is small and decadent that can be shared with your closest loved ones.”
Recipes: Honeyed Pistachio Mooncakes | Savory Suzhou Mooncakes
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