From durian to seafood, these are the different mooncakes you might find in China.
In China, people celebrate the fall harvest by eating mooncakes, round pastries that symbolize the harvest moon.
They’re comparable to fruitcakes in the West, a common gift exchanged between families and friends during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
There are many regional varieties with different stuffings, flavors, and crusts. Here are eight kinds.
Five-nut mooncake 五仁月饼
Popular throughout China, this is the most traditional mooncake, beloved by older generations.
The skin is typically made with flour, lye water, lard, and golden syrup. The filling is a mix of walnuts, almonds, olive kernels, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and pork.
But in recent years, manufacturers have cut corners by swapping out more expensive ingredients with cheaper ones, such as raisins, or using four types of nuts instead of five.
In 2016, the Chinese government released a “national standard” clarifying the ingredients in an authentic five-nut mooncake.
Cantonese-style mooncake 广式月饼
From the southern province of Guangdong, these mooncakes can be found in Chinese communities around the world, owing to a large Cantonese diaspora.
The golden-brown pastries often boast intricate designs and calligraphy. Mid-Autumn Festival motifs, such as rabbits, are common.
Classic sweet varieties include lotus seed paste and a cured egg yolk, which is said to represent the moon.
Suzhou meat mooncake 苏式鲜肉月饼
This hearty meat mooncake is a specialty of Suzhou, a city in eastern China famous for its winding canals.
As the name suggests, the filling is entirely composed of ground pork. The dough is laminated with lard to create flaky layers similar to a croissant. (If you want to try making them at home, we have a recipe here.)
Beijing fanmao mooncake 翻毛月饼
Fanmao means “falling feather,” a reference to the pastry’s flaky crust made with layers of lard. Common fillings include date and red bean paste.
The mooncakes were a favorite of Cixi, the last empress dowager of the Qing Dynasty.
Yunnan ham mooncake 云南火腿月饼
First conceived in a pastry shop in Yunnan Province, southwestern China, in the early 20th century, this mooncake’s outer layer is made with flour, lard, and honey.
The filling contains dried-cured ham (a specialty of Yunnan Province) and crushed rose petals. The result is a sweet, savory, and meaty mooncake.
Hunan-style mooncake 湖南酥薄月饼
These crispy, thin mooncakes are a specialty of Hengyang in central China’s Hunan Province. The paste is made with rose, osmanthus, and maltose sugar. Sesame seeds are sprinkled on the outside.
Seafood mooncake 海味月饼
Seafood mooncakes are popular in coastal provinces like Shandong and Fujian. Most are made with seaweed and dried seafood, such as shrimp and fish.
Pricier versions have included abalone and shark’s fin, a controversial ingredient.
Snow skin mooncakes 雪皮月饼
Non-baked mooncakes have become trendy in China, especially among younger generations that find traditional cakes too hefty and fatty.
The crust is made with glutinous rice, resulting in a chewy texture similar to mochi. The filling is made with trendy flavors such as bubble tea, durian, and even caviar and truffle.
The chase for trends has given rise to a new phrase—mooncake wars—to describe the competition between pastry shops to create the most outlandish cakes.