Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, and mooncake season is here

Hu Min
With Mid-Autumn Festival just a month away, mooncake season is here, with many time-honored brands exporting the classic snack overseas while innovating new recipes in Shanghai.
Hu Min
Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, and mooncake season is here
Hu Min / SHINE

Customers buy mooncakes at the Fuzhou Road outlet of Xing Hua Lou, on Wednesday.

Mooncakes by Shanghai's time-honored restaurants have been exported overseas, proving popular among Chinese people abroad looking to enjoy traditional Chinese snacks.

This year's Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 29. It's celebrated with family reunions, appreciation of full moon and mooncakes.

Mooncakes from classic restaurants like Xing Hua Lou in Huangpu District, the city's oldest Cantonese-style eatery, Sunya Cantonese Restaurant, and Shen Da Cheng, have been exported to countries like the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan.

The seasonal delicacy not only represents a flavor from home for overseas Chinese people, but also evokes a chord of nostalgia.

Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, and mooncake season is here
Ti Gong

Mooncakes with red bean paste filling

"We've exported quite a number of mooncakes to the United States, Australia and Japan this year. It's estimated that this year's export will significantly surpass last year's," said Xu Gang, head of Xing Hua Lou's manufacturing plant.

"Most consumers are overseas Chinese people favoring classic flavors like red bean paste, lotus seed, shredded coconut and wuren, a five-nut filling," said Xu.

Xing Hua Lou exported more than 20,000 boxes of mooncakes and over 300,000 mooncakes overseas this year, growing nearly 240 percent respectively from 2022.

Some dealers continued to increase orders due to booming sales, said Xu.

Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, and mooncake season is here
Hu Min / SHINE

A customer picks mooncakes at the Fuzhou Road outlet of Xing Hua Lou, on Wednesday.

"Some Chinese consumers living overseas didn't receive our mooncakes last year due to the pandemic, making them yearn more for their hometown," Xu explained.

Dim sum from Shen Da Cheng like babaofan (steamed sweetened glutinous rice with eight distinct ingredients) and rice cakes, as well as their mooncakes have been exported to Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Canada.

"Unlike the domestic market with a trend of continuously upgrading recipes, consumers in overseas markets showed a strong preference for the classic flavors," said Yao Zengying, marketing manager of the restaurant.

"One bite into a mooncake comforts me, and it relieves my homesickness to some extent," said Joey Jiang, a Shanghainese working in Syndey for six years after studying there. "It's a moment of childhood nostalgia, reminding me of when I gazed at the full moon and ate mooncakes and roasted duck with my parents."

With a month until this year's Mid-Autumn Festival, time-honored restaurants and shops in the city are cooking up a feast of the festival's traditional delicacy, with diversified and unconventional flavors, using innovative approaches.

Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, and mooncake season is here
Hu Min / SHINE

Mooncake season has begun.

Xing Hua Lou has launched 34 types of mooncakes for this year's festival.

One of the flavors features an East-meets-West approach with Ovaltine being used as the filling, to tempt the taste buds of the young generation.

The packaging for the mooncake features patterns of Dunhuang frescoes, embodying the everlasting charm of traditional Chinese culture. There's also a crossover cooperation with domestic game producer Hypergryph for another packaging for Xing Hua Lou's mooncakes. It features the game "Arknights," luring in avid gamers.

Shanghai First Foodhall, a landmark food store on the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall, has launched two new flavors – mango pomelo sago and coconut latte – for its mooncakes this year.

The latter features coconut milk from Hainan Province with a mixture of black coffee.

The cheese beef-stuffed mooncakes by Wang Bao He, another time-honored restaurant in the city known for its hairy crab cuisine, blend classic Suzhou-style mooncakes with Western hamburgers.

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