History has it that during the Yuan dynasty in China, Zhu Yuanzhang, the leader of the Ming Army, conceived the plan to use mooncakes to distribute messages to the people, so as to overthrow the Mongolian rule. On the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, when the moon was at its fullest, the people formed a rebellion and overthrew their oppressors, hence establishing the Ming dynasty. This day is now used to commemorate the Mid-Autumn Festival and is celebrated with the lighting of lanterns, as well as the eating of mooncakes and pomelo fruits.
Mooncakes are usually round or square shaped, and are made up of a thin skin covering a sweet dense filling, sometimes containing salted egg yolks. Traditionally, the skin of a mooncake is made from a chewy brown dough made with lard. This dough is also used to make fish or piglet shaped biscuits that are sold with mooncakes, largely popular with children. Today, other types of mooncake skins, such as those made out of flaky pastry and snow skin, are commonplace.
The Chinese characters for longevity or harmony are often imprinted on the top of mooncakes. Other imprints include the name of the bakery, the filling, as well as images of flowers, the moon or Chang Er (the goddess of the moon in Chinese folklore). The original filling for mooncakes is said to be lotus seed paste, but fillings like red bean paste and yam paste are also widespread. Modern varieties of mooncakes have also popped up in recent years, including flavours such as durian, ice-cream, bird’s nest, chocolate, green tea, cream cheese, chempedek and more.
Many establishments in Singapore sell mooncakes, with Chinese restaurants, bakeries and hotels producing highly sought after creations. Some popular outlets include Raffles Hotel, Chop Tai Chong Kok at Sago Street and Tai Thong Cake Shop at Mosque Street. Be it traditional mooncakes or those with a twist, these treats are sure to send you over the moon.