I love, love mooncakes and with the Mid-Autumn Festival just around the corner, Sept. 12 to be exact, I’d like to share some of the origins of the mooncake. There are many stories about its origins but no one can really pinpoint how they became associated with the Mid-Autumn festivalAccording to one folk tale, the overthrow of the Mongol rule in China in the 14th century was brought about by messages in mooncakes. Ming revolutionary leaders, Zhu Yuanzhang and his senior deputy Liu Po-wen spread a rumor that there was a plague spreading and the only cure was to eat special mooncakes. This ensured the quick distribution of the mooncakes, which were used to hide messages inside coordinating the revolt on the 15th day of the eight lunar month.
Another variation of this is when messages were printed on top of the mooncake in the form of a puzzle. To solve the puzzle, each of the 4 pieces of mooncake packaged together must be cut into 4 pieces to get a total of 16 pieces. The 16 pieces are are then arranged in a predetermined way to find the message, evidence is then done away by consuming the mooncake.
A version of the legend attributes the scheme to Liu Futong, the leader of the Red Turbans instead of Zhu Yuanzhang and his advisers.
Whatever the origins may be people have closely attributed the eating of mooncakes with the Mid-Autmn Festival that some have interchanged it with Mooncake Festival.
I’ve just come back from Hong Kong, where the selling of mooncakes is in full swing. Its available everywhere, from the small bakery to even high end restaurants. You may be more familiar with the big mooncakes that are usually available here, with fillings of lotus seed paste or black sesame.
I prefer the smaller mini mooncakes that you can see here, since its more easily consumed in one go. Each piece is individually packed to ensure its freshness.
They even have icy mooncake with a mochi like outer layer and different combination of ice cream flavors inside. I even saw chocolate and gelato mooncakes, low-fat mooncakes, all variants catering to different tastes of consumers. One interesting thing I saw is the selling of mooncake vouchers, since people buy a lot of mooncake to give away, it tends to be very heavy. Instead of people giving the mooncakes themselves, they just give vouchers where the recipients can claim them from their preferred location.
I wish our mooncake makers adopt some of the ideas from Hong Kong, so there would be no need to bring them back here.