What’s better than celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival with your nearest and dearest? Tucking into all the delicious food that comes with the holiday! Tracey Furniss shares this year’s must-haves
Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, which this year is on September 10. It is the day when the moon is said to be at its brightest and roundest, and most countries in Asia celebrate the festival over several days with family reunions, lion dances and lantern parades.
This year, if you’re not in the mood to cook, executive Chinese chef Jayson Tang at JW Marriott’s Man Ho has cooked up his first Mid-Autumn Festival poon choi takeaway, a delicious feast to enjoy in the comfort of your own home with family and friends. The feast boasts 18 premium ingredients including Australian sea cucumber, 33-head South African dried abalone, black sea moss, goose web, shiitake mushroom, whole dried scallop, tea-smoked local Ping Yuen chicken, roasted goose, tiger prawn and more, all served up in a reusable cast iron pot. It is available until September 16.
Hutong at Tsim Sha Tsui’s H Zentre boasts the perfect ambience for celebrating this 3,000-year-old Chinese festival, reminiscent of old Peking with handcrafted wood doors and panels and glowing red silk lanterns. But it also has a spectacular view of Kowloon and Hong Kong, and more importantly, the moon. This Northern Chinese restaurant offers a 10-dish dinner or brunch featuring Wagyu beef puff with black pepper and charcoal, yu xiang crispy pork dumpling, grilled lamb rack, steamed cod with Sichuan green peppercorn and more. It also includes the Bee’s Dream cocktail shaken with gin, chamomile cordial, cardamom honey, lemon and pineapple. Over the festival, guests can discover the art of Chinese lantern making.
Mooncakes are another big part of the Mid-Autumn Festival when friends and family exchange them as gifts and of course, enjoy eating the many special varieties now available in Hong Kong. The traditional Cantonese-style mooncakes, which Hong Kong grandparents would have enjoyed each year, have a glossy golden crust with a delicate pattern on the top. They are filled with sweet lotus paste and, at the centre, salted duck egg yolks. Another traditional mooncake is filled with mixed nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts and dried winter melon seeds, sesame and pumpkin seeds, and roast pork. During the 1980s, when Chinese restaurants started to appear in many five-star hotels, chefs started to experiment with mooncake fillings.
In 1986, Yip Wing Wah worked at the newly opened Spring Moon at The Peninsula Hong Kong and over his 30 years there he became a master dim sum chef. But he is also well known for creating the now popular egg custard mooncake, which he made with a Western-style cookie crust. This new mooncake sparked a frenzy with customers when launched and, now 36 years on, egg custard mooncakes are a favourite in the city.
The chefs at The Peninsula continue to create delicious new mooncake fillings. At The Peninsula Boutique, chef Tang Chi Keung, the hotel’s culinary advisor, has created two delicious flavours: sesame and mung bean paste with a salted egg, and lotus seed paste with salty lemon. They are presented in an impressively large round champagne-coloured box which includes a small tin of Pu’er tea. Also available at The Peninsula, the egg custard mooncake is infused with Peninsula Blend tea this year.
Ice cream mooncakes were first commercialised by Häagen-Dazs 25 years ago, and were a big hit during Mid-Autumn Festival, especially with those who are not keen on the traditional fare. Ice cream mooncakes often had a snow-dusted skin or chocolate crust. This idea caught on fast, inspiring restaurants to create their own mooncakes with the likes of champagne ganache and volcanic-salt caramel fillings. The InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong brought out the first chocolate mooncake infused with malt whisky in 2015, which has remained popular ever since.
For chocolate lovers this year, Cova has a new lava chocolate mooncake made with its famous house-made chocolate and presented in a luxury box. Cova also offers an egg custard with salted egg mooncake encased in a butter pastry crust and a white lotus seed paste mooncake with egg yolk. For the health-conscious, there’s a cranberry and assorted nuts mooncake with pistachios, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and sesame seeds.
The Conrad Hong Kong’s Chinese restaurant Golden Leaf, meanwhile, has come up with the first gin-infused mooncake, partnering with Hong Kong gin makers Two Moons to launch its first gin mooncake box set. The box itself pays tribute to Chinese culture featuring timeless Beiwei Kaishu calligraphy crafted by Master Yeung Kai. Inside are four mooncakes with two distinct flavours: creamed egg yolk with gin, and red bean paste with Mandarin peels and egg yolk. Two Moons’ Calamansi Gin is infused in egg custard for the former, which has a sweet and silky pastry. There are also two mini bottles of Two Moons gin – Signature Dry Gin and Calamansi Gin – to enjoy with the mooncakes.