As with all Chinese holidays, food plays an important role in celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It’s a time when the full moon is brightest and families and old friends get back together and give away and receive tins of moon cake – the original salty and sweet dessert Combo. All who eat them that day are said to be blessed with happiness.
Traditionally, a moon cake is a delicate, tender pastry that wraps a sweet filling, like red beans, white lotus seed paste, or candied fruits and nuts that are usually wrapped around a salted duck egg, symbolizing the moon. The often circular moon cake is pressed into a traditional wooden mold, which embossed the pastry with decorative flowers and Chinese lucky words. It is said (at least by my mother) that moon cakes were made in honor of a tyrant’s wife who sacrificed her life and flew to the moon to escape her abusive, power-hungry, and immortal-obsessed husband. Theatre! But today we are taught that they represent unity, happiness and good fortune, and they are being given away to friends and family in the run-up to the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on September 21 this year.
Classic interpretations are still the most common, but luxury hotels and popular bakeries in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Chinatowns around the world are taking their moon cakes to a whole new level with creative flavors like durian, shrimp and truffles, as well as creating novelties like Moon cake for pets. Before the festival, here are some of my favorite online retailers that will ship nationwide. Whether you’re a traditionalist or craving something a little more modern, you’re sure to find something tempting in our list of the best mooncakes to buy online.
Founded in Taiwan in 1948, Sheng Kee Bakery is still run by its founding family and now has more than 11 stores in California. When you go to a stationary location, there are 14 different types of mooncake to choose from, including date, taro, and pineapple. But Sheng Kee also sells mooncakes online – more than 1.5 million a year! – To meet the needs of homesick Taiwanese. My two favorite boxes are those Deluxe moon cake mix, which contains both oolong and chestnut fillings, and the Taiwanese delicious paste Variety that has an exceptionally flaky and tender crust and a sweet green bean filling. My advice: why choose? Get both.
Sheng Kee Assorted Moon Cakes in deluxe box
Sheng Kee Yummy Paste mooncakes
If you’re longing for a denser filling that adds pizzazz with every bite, this is it Amoy moon cake set is for you. Each eight pack contains custard, matcha, and purple sweet potato flavors that are decadent and rich, like a New York cheesecake. These are “lava pudding” moon cakes so you can find a melting center in every tiny pastry. Get the classic Amoy white lotus paste with two egg yolks to get you and your moon cake eaters in a good mood at this mid-autumn festival.
Amoy White Lotus Paste Moon Cake
Amoy lava pudding paste moon cake
A Hong Kong institution with locations in California, this 70-year-old bakery offers easy access to mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival. However, if you can’t get to Monterey Park, San Gabriel, or Rowland Heights, Kee Wah Bakery also sells all of their signature Cantonese-style mooncakes online with free shipping via Amazon. Stick to the traditional moon cake like red bean paste (with double-salted egg yolks for extra luck) or choose Custard moon cakethat come out when you bite into it.
Kee Wah Bakery Red Bean Mooncake
Wing Wah mooncakes can be found in festive decorative tins at most Asian grocery stores in the US and are also available online. Go for the original Cantonese style white lotus paste with single or double egg yolks or choose the melted custard Variety that has a juicy, liquid duck egg center in place of the dry egg yolks found in traditional moon cakes.
Wing Wah Melted Custard Moon Cake
Wing Wah White Lotus Moon Cakes
Traditionalists can opt for the lotus seeds, red beans, and mixed nut moon cakes (with the optional salted egg yolk, of course) at NYC’s Fay Da Bakery. But if you want to add some color to your life, go for the rainbow-colored Lava Collection, which features fillings made from sticky custard, orange, matcha, and durian.
This hugely popular Taiwanese bakery chain in California has carbohydrate fans on the doorstep seven days a week for pillow-soft pork silk buns and custard donuts. But during the Mid-Autumn Festival, 85 ℃ fans can enjoy both Cantonese and Taiwanese moon cakes, freshly made on the premises. What sets the 85 ℃ mooncakes apart is the addition of mochi, which adds extra chew and bounce. I recommend the Dong-Po 85 ℃ mooncake, which contains pork floss, mochi, red beans, walnut, salted egg, and Asiago cheese, but if you’re looking to impress your in-laws, you can’t go wrong with that Cantonese style mooncake gift boxwho have favourited Walnut Date Mochi, Almond Lotus Seeds, Red Bean Egg Yolk, and Pineapple Egg Yolk Moon Cake. Mooncakes also come with free shipping.