Check out these delicious ice cream images:
Starbucks mooncake looking like pac-man
Image by Pondspider
Mooncakes are to the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival what turkey is to Thanksgiving, matzo is to Passover and strawberries and cream is to Wimbledon.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is linked to the legend of Chang E, who swallowed a pill granting her immortality, floated to the moon and became the Goddess of the Moon. The festival is dedicated to lunar worship and moon watching and thus mooncakes form an indispensable delicacy. So central are mooncakes to the Mid-Autumn Festival that it is now often known as the “Moon Cake Festival”.
During an August CHAT (Come Have a Talk) coffee, AWA members sampled a few of the wide variety of mooncakes found in Hong Kong.
Traditional mooncakes consist of a thin pastry crust enveloping a sweet, dense filling such as red bean or lotus seed paste, which is a similar consistency to marzipan. They may envelope one or more whole salted egg yolks found in the middle of the cake, and symbolizing a full moon. Having sampled one of these, I have concluded that it is definitely an acquired taste – and one I have not yet mastered!
With its lard-laden crust, sugary filling and cholesterol rich center, the traditional mooncake is a cardiologist’s nightmare. This, and the Hong Kong obsession for innovative and exciting consumer products, has led to the recent development of a new generation of modern mooncakes. There are new flavors like chocolate, coffee and caramel. The popular “snowy mooncakes” have glutinous rice or jelly crusts and a huge variety of fillings and there are even ice cream mooncakes marketed by Häagen-Dazs.
The AWA tasters sampled a mixed assortment of six snowy mooncakes from the Saint Honore Cake Shop, a box of four from Starbucks which were traditional in appearance but, unsurprisingly, had a coffee-themed flavour and finally, a dessicated coconut and lotus seed mooncake with a pastry crust and sold by famous Kee Wah bakery.
The Saint Honore Bakery mooncakes seem to be one of the most enthusiastically promoted brands in Hong Kong with advertisements featuring a pretty, pastel woman covering the walls of MTR stations. The coordinated and equally pretty, pastel mooncakes come in an attractive pastel tin. There are eight individual flavors and not a salted egg in sight.
The least popular of our tasting samples were the Sesame Custard and White Bean, the filling of which apparently resembled wallpaper paste, and the Sweet Potato and Banana, which was described as, “cloyingly sweet” and “seriously weird”. The Saint Honore winners were the distinctly non-traditional, Rose and Cranberry, described as, “delicious – like rosewater” and the Caramel Coffee, which found favor for both flavor and texture.
At about 280 calories per piece, most of these little cakes are not for the diet conscious! If you are watching your intake, choose the Pineapple and Coconut, a snip at just 108 calories and 4.4 grams of fat!
Multinational chain, Starbucks offered an attractive box of four mooncakes, two each of Caramel and Macchiato and Espresso and Nuts.
With their pastry crusts, the mooncakes look traditional, but the fillings are aimed toward the sophisticated Hong Kong urbanite. Espresso and Nut was the favorite. Tasters liked the coffee flavor but were not so enthusiastic about the dense and somewhat cloying texture. Others felt the contrast between the rich, sweet interior and the savory crust detracted from the overall experience.
The Dessicated Coconut and Lotus Seed mooncake from Kee Wah had a pastry crust and the lightest filling of all the cakes. Some samplers marked it as their overall favorite. The outer crust was sweet which complemented the coconut interior which some described as, “a bit like a fruit cake”.
Despite serious tasting, it was impossible to find an overall winner. However, mooncakes come in such a huge variety of styles and flavors it is difficult to imagine not finding one you enjoy. Throw yourself into the spirit of the season and enjoy sampling!
I would like to thank Jenny McBain, Margie Oehmke, Carole Atkin and Susan Madon for bringing the mooncakes and also thanks to all those present for participating!
This article will be appearing in the September edition of AWAre, the American Women’s Association of Hong Kong.