Friday, October 23, 2015

China 2015 | Mid-Autumn Festival {中秋节} & Mooncakes {月饼} in Shanghai

Since we were in Shanghai over the Mid-Autumn Festival {中秋节} this year, we had a very special treat to celebrate it in the country where the festival originated.

For my non-Chinese friends who aren't familiar with this, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival celebrated by ethnic Chinese on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. This usually falls between early September to early October every year.

Traditionally, the festival was a time to enjoy the successful reaping of rice / wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon. Today, it is still an occasion for reunions among friends and relatives to eat mooncakes and 赏月 {literally admire the moon}, a symbol of harmony and unity.

When the boy and I were studying in Australia, we used to buy mooncakes from our local Chinese shops, brew a nice pot of hot tea and sit out at our balcony to bask in the moonlight. Even though it was still pretty cold {it's usually around late winter/ early spring}, and the cheap mooncakes tasted kinda awful, we still cherished the time with chatting and keeping each other snug & warm. Oh sweet nostalgia!!

I really wanted to try out authentic Chinese mooncakes {月饼} while we were in China. It was very interesting to see that traditional Shanghai mooncakes are pretty different from the ones we usually see in Singapore! And really sooo much more affordable. You can get a decent piece for as cheaply as RMB3.50 {S$0.80}!

Our kind of thin, smooth-skinned mooncakes with delicate molded patterns are known as Cantonese mooncakes {广式月饼}. Since Shanghai borders the borders the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, their mooncakes are Suzhou-style {苏式月饼}, which is common in Southern China, like in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

Compared with the Cantonese moon cakes, they look far less greasy, and are not as delicately made. They are shaped into little buns with short crust pastry, and the skin is flaky and white / golden at the top. Most of the Shanghai mooncakes we saw had meat fillings {鲜肉月饼}, but they are also available with sweet fillings stuffed with roses, osmanthus flowers, sesame, walnuts, sunflower seeds etc.

During our time there, we saw a lot of street vendors selling mooncake vouchers {月饼票} . Some had signs like the above, others were just sitting around holding out vouchers but the locals knew what they were selling.

Apparently the vouchers allow you to redeem mooncakes from various shops, cafes, hotels, restaurants etc. They are usually given as gifts from companies, friends or family and those that have received too many will sell them to these vendors. The vendors will in turn, resell them around 40-60% of the voucher's original value. Quite a good deal actually.

We researched and found some of the best places to eat Shanghai mooncakes from but didn't specially go there. On our way out and about, we did past by a few of the recommended places and the queues were super long!!! I saw one where the queue went around a few blocks... so crazy.

Even the not-so-famous shops had queues which I guess is expected given that it's a major festival and you just HAVE TO eat mooncakes during Mid-Autumn Festival! :P

There was a Mooncake Fair inside Shanghai First Foodhall {largest food mall in Shanghai} at Nanjing East Road. You could purchase different kinds mooncakes from all over China here.

On the eve of Mid-Autumn Festival, we bought our meat-filled 鲜肉月饼 Shanghai mooncakes to eat the next day. We bought a box of 6 mooncakes with black pork filling from Shanghai First Foodhall.

Shanghai is famous for their hairy crabs and since it's hairy crab season now too, we decided to try their mooncakes with hairy crab filling from Cheng Long Xie Wang Fu, a famous restaurant specialising in hairy crab dishes.

The hairy crab mooncakes were more expensive at RMB12 {S$2.60} per piece and the outer crust was really buttery and melt-in-your-mouth soft.

The meat filling was pretty measly though and it's not made purely from hairy crab, but from crab and pork!!

The pastry crust for the black pork mooncakes were not as soft, but still flaky and flavourful. The portion of the meat filling was decent and at RMB4 {S$0.90} per piece, I think it was well worth the money.

Since the classic meat-filled 鲜肉月饼 Shanghai mooncakes are made fresh with no preservatives, we didn't buy any to bring back to Singapore but we still wanted our family and friends to try some authentic mooncakes from the motherland and bought back some others as souvenirs.

On Mid-Autumn Festival night we specially went down to the Shanghai Bund to celebrate.

The Bund is usually crowded but that night was even more packed! There were policemen around to guide the crowds too.

The weather was so cooling and even though it was bustling, it was not much of a jostle for space.

Thankfully, we managed to get a spot in front of the popular Pearl Tower to sit down and leisurely eat our mooncakes, drink green tea while admiring a spectacular view of the famous Bund and Huangpu River.

Nom nom nom... we were really full from mooncakes that night hahahaha.

Famous view of Pudong from Puxi, where we were located. Pudong is much more developed and cleaner, but I still prefer to stay at Puxi since it's the historical centre and more convenient  to reach all the major city attractions.

This is definitely a Mid-Autumn Festival to remember and I'm glad that we were all together as a family to experience this in China



Masshole Mommy said...

Those moon cakes look soooo yummy!

Sally-Ann Brown said...

What a fun and yummy tradition.

alissa apel said...

Everything looks so busy, colorful, and the food looks yummy! It's so great you got to go there.

Theresa Mahoney said...

Every time you post about mooncakes, I get a little more jealous that I've never had one. They look amazing!

Grace said...

My mouth was drooling over those moon cakes! Love the night shots! What a beautiful city. I'd love to visit Shanghai - one day!

Stacy said...

Last time when I was there, I was so impressed with their fanciful packaging! But packaging has caught on here by now.

Michelle said...

It is interesting to see that they have savoury mooncakes, instead of the sweet ones we find in Singapore and Malaysia. I love any chinese cakes with that flaky soft skin. I'll will definitely look out for it if I happen to find myself in China during mid autumn festival.

Claudia said...

Traditional mooncakes sure look better than the traditional ones we have in Singapore! I love flaky skin pastries. Must bookmark your posts for future trips. :)

Geraldine said...

Love the savoury mooncakes in Shanghai! Why can't we get decently priced mooncakes in Singapore, so darn expensive here... :)

Mums Babies said...

These are looking so yummy and i feel like baking them at home. Traditional recipes are definitely a keepsake.

Debs G from Owls Well said...

I've never eaten savoury mooncakes before! They sound tasty.

SengkangBabies said...

Hairy crab mooncake?
I have not even heard of it before haha, but it sure sounds tantalising.

cheers, Andy

Justine Ong said...

Agree with the posters above! The savoury ones look really interesting! Were the pastries kinda like tau sar pia (mung bean pastry) that we can get in sg? I am assuming the meat ones wld have to be fairly dry, so no juices oozing out? Would really love to get my hands on some to try one day!

Phoebe Lau said...

Experiencing mid-autumn on another land must be really different. THe mooncakes looked delicious!

mummybean said...

I'm not a huge mooncake fan - I find them too sweet! But these savoury ones that you had in Shanghai would be right up my alley.