Today marks the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, the seasonal harvest celebration that traces its roots back to China some 3,000 years. Korea, Japan and other countries heavily influenced by China observe similar holidays – a time to celebrate a successful harvest with a great feast among friends and family. The moon is a symbol of unity and harmony and it is tradition during this season to give mooncakes as gifts which are enjoyed while observing the full moon.
There are few local bakeries that make fresh mooncakes for the occasion. In Honolulu, the Hong Kong and Cantonese-style mooncakes are the most common: They traditionally feature a tender pastry crust wrapped around fillings like lotus seed paste, red beans (azuki), coconut paste, wintermelon, ham and nuts. All can be had with or without salted duck egg yolks, another symbol of the moon, and one that has the mooncake-eating world divided. Being a lover of egg yolk, I encourage you to give it a try. Get them while they’re available because today might be the last day they’re available.
Bread House produces a number of great Chinese-style pastries and their mooncake offering is no exception. Their pastries feature traditional fillings like lotus seed paste and red bean paste, with or without the preserved egg yolk but the crust is noticeably flakier than some of the other mooncakes I've tried.
1041 Maunakea St ● Chinatown ● 548-0218
Located in the Kapalama Shopping Center on Dillingham Boulevard, Elvin’s Bakery offers a wide variety of baked mooncakes including lotus seed paste, red bean, taro, mixed nuts, squash and mung bean. A box of four will run you about $30 depending on the variety while individual mooncakes start at $6.25 each. It’s common for bakeries to offer beautiful red and gold boxes with magnetic clasps for gifting and Elvin’s box makes for a pretty gift.
1210 Dillingham Blvd ● Kalihi ● 848-8118
Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery
In addition to the traditional baked mooncakes they’ve been making for generations, Sing Cheong Yuan makes bing pi or mochi mooncake. Sometimes called snow skin moon cakes for their delicate, translucent appearance, they're lighter in flavor and taste great chilled or slightly frozen (about 15 minutes). They somehow leave one with a little less guilt than the baked variety. Particularly with their bing pi mooncakes, Sing Cheong Yuan offers many non-traditional fillings including mango, green tea, ube, red bean paste with fresh strawberry (think Two Ladies Kitchen), wintermelon and durian. Yes, even the king of fruits is included in their lunar lineup.
As an added bonus, they will have their annual sale after the Moon Festival and actually continue to make a few of the traditional mooncakes throughout the year.
1027 Maunakea St ● 531-6688 ● Chinatown
From all of us at Frolic Hawaii, we wish you a joyous Mid-Autumn Festival and hope you get to enjoy some tasty treats with family and friends. Oh, and can someone get me a couple of those Oreo flavored mooncakes from Asia? Thanks!