During the Mid Autumn Fest, mooncake eating and giving is a large part of the traditions and festivities. Year to year, more businesses and bakeries compete to create elaborate mooncakes and even more elaborate packaging. In Taiwan, the variety of mooncakes present is influenced by the multitude of cultures, ethnicities and immigrants that comprise its population.
Types of Mooncakes in Taiwan
The common types of mooncakes typically fall into the three broad categories of Cantonese style, Traditional Taiwan style and Suzhou style.
Arguably the most well known and elaborate type, this category of mooncakes has a thin sugary pastry skin that requires the key ingredient of alkaline water. These mooncakes originate from the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces of China. The delicate skin encases dense interiors of sweet pastes and other luxury ingredients such as egg yolks, nuts or dried fruits. Interior fillings run the gamut of lotus, red bean, taro or other sugary and often lard-laced flavors. In order to create the decorative designs on the skin, the cakes are pressed in molds carved with designs or seals of the bakery it is from. Molds are commonly made of wood (or plastic in present times) with variations of stone, ceramic and metal available as well.
Traditional Taiwan Style
A testament to the diversity in Taiwan, this mooncake style looks deceptively simple, yet is known to be one of the most difficult to make. With origins of Fujian influence mixed with Japanese baking techniques, this style particularly highlights Taiwanese ingredients. The laminated skin is created by two types of dough, one of which is an “oil dough” made with either peanut oil or lard. The doughs are rolled out individually per mooncake, stacked and then rolled similarly to a green onion pancake in order to create flaky layers. The most prevalent filling consists of mung bean paste, braised minced meat, and fried shallot to create a sweet and savory flavor profile. Other common filling combinations include red bean, lotus paste and the addition of mochi or egg yolk. These mooncakes are typically stamped with a red dot or seal of the bakery on top.
Hailing from near the city of Shanghai, these mooncakes have a more humble round look with a laminated dough that is usually made with lard. Most popularly, these mooncakes are filled with rich, savory pork, although sweet varieties with black or white sesame paste are used as well. This style of mooncake is typically served hot and is a close cousin to meat filled dumplings and buns. You can often find them year round, rather than only during the Mid Autumn Festival.
- Recipe for Cantonese Mooncakes
- Recipe for Traditional Taiwanese Mung Bean & Minced Meat Mooncakes
- Recipe for Suzhou Meat Mooncakes