Editor's note: Originally published in September 2019, this post has been updated for this year's Moon Festival on Oct. 1, 2020.
On the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is full, Chinese all over the world celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, as it's commonly known. With roots dating back some 3,000 years, the festival is also celebrated in Korea, Vietnam and other cultures heavily influenced by China. The moon is a symbol of prosperity and family reunion, and it is tradition during this season to give mooncakes as gifts to be enjoyed while gazing at the full moon.
In Honolulu, 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.
See also: Food meets moment: Mooncakes
These places around Oahu make their own mooncakes in sweet and savory, traditional and contemporary varieties.
Bread House produces a number of great Chinese-style pastries and their mooncake offering is no exception. These feature traditional fillings like lotus seed paste ($7), red bean paste ($6.50) and walnut paste ($7.50), with or without a preserved egg yolk. The crust is noticeably flakier than some 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, mixed nuts with ham, and squash . A box of four will run you about $28 without egg yolks and $30 with egg yolks. Individual mooncakes start at $6.25 for the red bean paste with no egg. It’s common for bakeries to offer beautiful red and gold boxes with magnetic clasps for gifting; Elvin’s box makes for a pretty gift.
1210 Dillingham Blvd ● Kalihi ● 848-8118
Harbor Village Cuisine
This longtime Hawaii Kai fixture makes mooncakes with traditional fillings like lotus bean, red bean and mixed nuts with dried scallops. Options include eggless, single yolk or double yolk; by the piece, mini mooncake or large mooncakes, with prices varying accordingly. Call ahead to order.
7192 Kalanianaole Hwy • Hawaii Kai • 395-2311
Legend Seafood Restaurant
The Chinatown dim sum parlor sells gift boxes of 4 mooncakes: lotus seed with double egg yolk for $32, lotus seed with single egg yolk for $30, pine nuts with lotus seed or red bean or dates for $28, red bean paste with single egg yolk for $30 and double egg yolk for $38. Or you can mix and match.
100 N. Beretania St. • Chinatown • 532-1868
Miss Chen's Cake
It's pre-orders only for mooncakes from Miss Chen's Cake. Lotus, black sesame and red bean mooncakes come six to a box with salted egg yolks, with or without savory pork floss.
808 Sheridan St. • Ala Moana • 492-1723 • @misschenscake
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 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 makes the lunar lineup. New this year: Okinawan sweet potato mochi mooncake.
Sing Cheong Yuan took over Crack Seed Store in Kaimuki at the beginning of the year, which means mooncakes are available for online ordering and shipping at crackseedstore.com.
1027 Maunakea St ● 531-6688 ● Chinatown
Water Drop Vegetarian House
Downtown's vegetarian Chinese eatery sells mooncakes stuffed with red bean, mung bean, black bean, coconut, pineapple, sesame and green tea fillings ($2 for small, $6 for large). Mooncakes with five nuts or lotus paste fillings are $2.50 for small and $7 for large.
801 Alakea St. • Downtown • 545-3455
We wish you a joyous Mid-Autumn Festival and hope you get to enjoy some tasty treats with family and friends.