The Flavours of Moon Festival in Asia

Four Seasons in Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai and Singapore serve up a variety of mooncakes in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Aug 22, 2011
Mooncake
Mooncakes have been enjoyed in Asia for hundreds of years.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Harvest time is cause for big celebration across the globe: The U.S. and Canada have a Thanksgiving; in the U.K., Harvest Festival, while not a national holiday, has paid homage to the fruits of the land since pre-Christian times; and in many parts of Asia, this year on September 12th, you’ll be able to take part in the Mid-Autumn Festival, or the Moon Festival, as it’s more popularly known. Dating back more than 3,000 years and considered one of the region’s most important holidays (especially in China, where the celebration traces its origins), the Moon Festival falls every year on the 15th day of the Chinese lunar calendar’s eighth month (which is when the moon is at its fullest and brightest).

The festival’s beginnings are cloaked in layers of legend. They range from the factual (some say the Moon Festival is a way to commemorate the overthrowing of the Mongol’s Yuan Dynasty in the 14th century), to the fantastical (other stories tell of an immortal woman who lives on the moon, and whose beauty shines brightest on the night of the festival). Whatever tale you subscribe to, one thing’s for sure: the festival was and remains a time when families come together under the harvest moon’s light to celebrate with song, dance, storytelling, lantern lighting—and mooncakes.

Mooncakes are a traditional delicacy made in an intricate process that involves wrapping pastry dough around a particular stuffing. Oftentimes, you’ll find mooncakes filled with sweet lotus seed paste with a salted egg yolk at its centre, though savoury ingredients, such as ham, cheese and poultry are also used. The cakes are then placed in mould to imprint a design and baked until golden brown. They’re dense, rich and delicious, and typically served sliced alongside cups of tea during the festival.

Mooncakes are an integral part of the celebration, almost as auspicious as the festival in which they are enjoyed. According to folklore, as Ming rebels planned their ultimately successful uprising, they smuggled messages to participants in mooncakes, which the Mongols were known to not eat. The cakes have come to symbolise longevity and good health in the Chinese culture.

Here are five delicious ways to ring in the Autumn Moon at Four Seasons across Asia.

  • For its first Mid-Autumn Festival, the new Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou will roll out several different flavours to savour: red bean paste with melon seeds, ham with mixed nuts, white lotus paste with two salted yolks at the centre, and crushed red dates (also called jujube) mixed with walnuts.
  • With their intricate designs, mooncakes are usually beautiful in and of themselves. But guests at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong can up the style quotient by purchasing Chef Chan Yan Tak’s signature delicacies housed in beautiful boxes created by famed Hong Kong-based graphic designer Alan Chan. The hotel’s mooncakes come in several different flavours, including a version stuffed with cream custard and toasted pine nuts.
  • Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip®  gets into the festive spirit with a sumptuous buffet dinner—mooncakes and festive lanterns included—at their Belcanção restaurant. As a perfect setting, you can grab a seat on the restaurant’s terrace and dine under the full moon’s glow. In addition, the Hotel’s Michelin-starred Zi Yat Heen restaurant offers four different mooncake flavours for guests to bring home, including one stuffed with shark’s fin, Yunnan ham and mixed nuts, and another featuring abalone, roast goose meat and mixed nuts.
  • Along with more traditional stuffing such as lotus seed paste and red bean paste, Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai puts an innovative spin on mooncakes by offering versions filled with truffles and bacon, chestnuts, and blueberries and cheese. The hotel’s buffet outlet, Café Studio plans to add a mooncake corner to its dessert station that will serve up mooncakes in 10 different flavours, including ice cream iterations.
  • At Four Seasons Hotel Singapore, nosh on savoury mooncakes filled with homemade chilli sauce, mixed nuts and lotus paste, or mixed berry mooncakes filled with fresh blueberries, cranberries and berry-infused lotus paste. Select from eight varieties in all, individually wrapped and packaged in red-and-gold boxes for added delight.

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