Well, every year I brace myself for what will be the new fangled flavours for mooncakes. Ta-dah ... last year takes the cake (pun intended). Its Angry Birds mooncakes! I think its a brilliant marketing strategy, its taking China/HK by the proverbial storm. Is that raining bird shit ... no, its just kids throwing their Angry Birds mooncakes in the air for effect. Now we even get Nasi Lemak ones.
This is for the benefit of new readers of this blog who have only been visiting for less than a year.
Each passing year, we get further away from tradition. Is this fusion or variety or just plain stupidity. I am talking about mooncakes. The whole thing marks of a scam.
Who doesn't know that the cost of a mooncake is minimal really compared to their exorbitant selling price. Why do you think almost every restaurant sells them? There must be a global collusion to sell these over priced things - its a Chinese mafia I tell you.
At best, the mooncake festival can be an excuse for family togetherness. The actual reasons and history for how the festival started are pretty flimsy. Its more stuffs of legends and fairytales than rooted in reality. But anyways, since the Chinese culture has no solid God/religion, where everything goes (the world is full of deities and buddhas as the saying goes), hearsay and stories evolved into things cultural, which in turn becomes tradition, and finally morphs into a marketing extravaganza.
Since it is stuff of legends and fairytales, its not rooted deeply in anything really, and is open for interpretation. It used to be just lotus paste and black sesame. Throw in the egg yolks if you want. NOW you have: lotus with dried sambal; green tea with pu'er; dragonfruit with blackcurrent; spirulina; the omochis; the ice cream ones; the durian paste; pandan sweet corn; capuccino; yam gingko nut; chocolate strawberry fondue; the various types of skin covers; oreo; chocolate walnut brownie; charcoal powder with wolfberry; Charcoal Infused Mocha Milk Tea; Snow Skin Japanese Potato with Custard; Fragrant Corn with Soft Yolk; Royal Jade Jelly; Nutty Chocolate with Yolk; Snow Skin Raspberry; Bluberry; Snow Skin Silky Vanilla Chestnut; Snow Skin Black Sesame; Green Beans with Cheese; chocolate peanut praline; blueberry blackcurrant cheese; chestnut Japanese jingsa; .... enough already... we are all losing the plot!!! Heck, I can even create an apom balik black sesame eggyolk ikan bilis flat moon cake... its all marketing baby!
Go back to the roots of the tradition. Why do we have Mooncake Festival? Its for family togetherness, its really for the kids ... I remember as kids I loved the festival, the lanterns and candles. I liked that connection, knowing that my dad and grand dad probably played with similar lanterns, similar candles and ate the same kind of mooncakes 50 or 100 years ago. That's the tradition that connects, and the kind you want to pass on to the next generation.
Above: lanterns for sale around Mid-Autumn Festival.
Not that anything about the mooncake thing is true, however, its cultural and it carries values, things we want to pass on - whether the festival is rooted in true events is not material anymore.
Hence, please you bloody marketers, do not cheapen the tradition. We want the connectivity. I will still want to buy the basic lotus paste or black sesame... and also the baked fish-shapes / pig-shaped mooncake biscuits ... because they all remind me of the past which I longed to remember and the people I do not wish to forget.
Of course, variations is a strong strategy to differentiate in a product/event that has "almost zero veracity" in truth or religious text. You don't find the Catholics changing ONE IOTA of the sacrament through the ages. Hence differentiation will continue cause no one cares, everyone is out to stand out and make money or get the latest "bling".
This year let me give you my HAZE Mooncakes, looks like smog, taste like freshly burnt tropical forest with a strong charcoal aftertaste - happy moonlike festival!!!
Regional variations in ChinaThere are many regional variants of the mooncake. Types of traditional mooncakes include:
- Cantonese-style mooncake: Originating from Guangdong province, the Cantonese style mooncake has multiple variations. The ingredients used for the fillings are various: lotus seed paste, melon seed paste, ham, chicken, duck, roast pork, mushrooms, egg yolks, etc. More elaborate versions contain four egg yolks, representing the four phases of the moon. Recent contemporary forms (albeit non-traditional) sold in Hong Kong are even made from chocolate, ice-cream or jelly.
- Suzhou-style mooncake:: This style began more than a thousand years ago, and is known for its layers of flaky dough and generous allotment of sugar and lard. Within this regional type, there are more than a dozen variations. It is also smaller than most other regional varieties. Suzhou-style mooncakes feature both sweet and savoury types, the latter served hot and usually filled with pork mince.
- Beijing-style mooncake: This style has two variations. One is called "di qiang," which was influenced by the Suzhou-style mooncake. It has a light foamy dough as opposed to a flaky one. The other variation is called "fan mao" and has a flaky white dough. The two most popular fillings are the mountain hawthorn and wisteria blossom flavour. The Beijing-style mooncake is often meticulously decorated.
- Chaoshan (Teochew)-style mooncake: This is another flaky crust variety, but is larger in size than the Suzhou variety. It is close in diameter to the Cantonese style, but thinner in thickness. A variety of fillings are used, but the aroma of lard after roasting is emphasised.
- Ningbo-style mooncake: This style is also inspired by the Suzhou-style. It is prevalent in Zhejiang province and has a compact covering. The fillings are either seaweed or ham; it is also known for its spicy and salty flavour.