Mid-Autumn Special: A Brief History of the Mooncake, from Immortality Symbol to Freedom Fighters—And Where to Get the Best Ones in Manila - Lifestyle Asia

This year’s festival falls on September 21.

The Mid-Autumn festival, also known as Zhongqiu Jie, traditionally marks the end of the autumn harvest which was celebrated as far back as the Zhou Dynasty, the longest of China’s dynasties that lasted from 1046 to 256 B.C.

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This was meant to give thanks to the lunar deity Chang’Er, the moon goddess of immortality.

Legend says that hearing the cries of a virtuous wedded woman fleeing the clutches of a rapacious courtier, the goddess gave her the elixir of immortality upon which the woman floated to the heavens and landed on the moon where she could watch over her beloved husband for all eternity.

But there is another story on the origin of the mooncake shared Peninsula Manila’s Public Relations Officer Grace Lim, which was a story told to her by her father when she was little girl.

“My father, Dr. Jose Lim, told us how the traditional mooncakes played a very significant role in helping the Chinese gain freedom from Mongol rule at the end of the Yuan Dynasty in the 14th century.”

Chafing under their Mongol oppressors, the Chinese organized themselves under the leadership of rebel leader Zhu Yuan Zhang. Weeks prior to the Mid-Autumn Festival he had his followers slip coded messages into mooncakes which he sent to all the Han Chinese households in the capital city of Dadu (later renamed Beijing by the succeeding Ming dynasty).

The delicious baked confections contained this message: ‘Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month.” The plan was a success and managed to overthrow the Mongols.

Whether it leads to any monumental shifts to society or not, we hope that this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on September 21, be auspicious for everyone. To celebrate, here are a few places to get your mooncakes.  

Kee Wah Bakery

The bakery started out as a small neighborhood grocery store on Shanghai Street in Yau Ma Tei in 1938. By the 1940s, the establishment finally transitioned to the heritage brand it is now known today.  Kee Wah has more than 100 stores across Hong Kong, Macau, China, Taiwan, United States, and the Philippines.

Their Supreme Mooncakes come in the bakery’s signature tin can decorated with a classic emperor’s portrait, signifying sovereignty. It’s available in White Lotus Seed Paste Mooncake with Two Yolks and Golden Lotus Seed Paste Mooncake that both come in 185g/pc, four pieces per tin for P3,400.

The Supreme Mooncakes also has a lower calorie version made with Malitol, a natural sugar substitute. Mini variants are also available as well as other flavors such as Red Bean Paste and its Celestial Series.

For more information, visit KeeWahProductsPhilippines.com.

Peninsula Boutique  

Many mooncake-lovers think that there is no substitute for those created by The Peninsula in Hong Kong. This year, for a limited time only, the highly sought-after mini egg custard mooncakes are available to purchase at The Peninsula Manila.

The history of The Peninsula mooncakes dates back to 1986 in Hong Kong, where Michelin-starred Spring Moon’s culinary team raised the bar on this storied confectionery, blending eastern tradition with western culinary techniques to create an utterly decadent treat. Since then, The Peninsula’s mooncakes’ popularity and status has continued to rise.

Available for pre-order at The Peninsula Boutique beginning August 14 and available for pick-up and delivery starting the first week of September, guests can purchase a box of four pieces, mini egg custard mooncakes, at P3,888 and eight pieces, assorted Mini Mooncakes at P4,888 and eight mini egg custard mooncakes at P4,888. Those ordering before September 14 get 10 percent off.

For more information, call 0917-557-8014, or email [email protected].

Lung Hin

Marco Polo Ortigas’s award-winning restaurant will offer traditional mooncakes for this year’s festival. Its featured flavors are red bean with double egg yolks, red lotus with double egg yolks, white lotus with double egg yolks, and mixed nuts.

The mooncakes are available individually at P828, in boxes of four P2,958, and in boxes of six at P3,988. They also come in commemorative packaging for those who wish to extend them as presents, either at P3,128 for a box of four, or P4,128 for a box of six.

For more information, call 7720-7777, or email [email protected].

Hua Yuan Brasserie Chinoise

This year’s mooncake box design from Hilton Manila pays homage to the core symbols of Chinese heritage. Embellished in imperial red, the striking box features a noble pair of red-crowned cranes amongst sacred clouds. The ornate die-cut window pane, inspired by the moon windows of Oriental architecture offers a peek to the matte-finishing gold and red receptacles housing the individual mooncakes.

This year, they come in three varieties: Red Bean Paste with Single Egg Yolk, White Lotus with Single Egg Yolk, and Mixed Nuts. A box of four moon cakes is priced at P2,488 while a box of two is at P1,488. Box customization and company logo inclusion is available upon request with minimum orders applicable.

For more information, call 7239-7788 or visit Hilton Manila on Facebook.

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