As the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival approaches－this year celebrated on Sept 15－mooncakes are turning up all over China, from very traditional teashops to Starbucks counters.
The holiday is one of China's four most important festivals, and in the weeks before the date arrives, top hotels get into the spirit with lavish treats in lovely packaging. Traditionally, the cookie-sized round pastry has a rich thick filling usually made from red-bean or lotus-seed paste and covered by a thin crust. It may also contain yolks from salted duck eggs, integrating a beautiful savory tinge into the sugary taste. Fillings and crusts have become more diverse over time, especially in the hands of skilled pastry chefs.
The moon in Chinese culture represents nostalgia and homesickness, and the top crust of each moon-shaped pastry is generally imprinted with the Chinese characters for longevity or harmony－and often the name of the bakery and the filling.
This year, the fancy gift boxes that have long driven the mooncake trade are particularly striking and rich with tradition.