Slideshow: Singapore Stories: Mooncake Madness During the Mid-Autumn Festival

Mooncake festival at Takashimaya Mall, Orchard Road
Mooncake festival at Takashimaya Mall, Orchard Road

Mooncakes are so popular that many indoor malls set up football field-sized spaces for mooncake vendors to set up their booths in. Mooncake season is much anticipated and highly competitive, with each vendor trying to outdo the other in quality, creative flavors, and packaging.

Mooncake kiosk in 100 AM Mall, Tanjong Pagar
Mooncake kiosk in 100 AM Mall, Tanjong Pagar

Though the closest mall to my place in the central business district is too tiny to set up multiple booths, there was still a mooncake vendor on hand, which made grabbing a box of mooncakes easy to do for workers on their way home from the office.

Mooncakes at Starbucks, 100 AM, Tanjong Pagar
Mooncakes at Starbucks, 100 AM, Tanjong Pagar

Even Starbucks gets into the mooncake spirit. Flavors included white lotus paste with egg yolk, coffee with almond, and green tea with sesame.

Mooncakes on display
Mooncakes on display

Vendors showcase their mooncakes in display cases. While the pastry-encased mooncakes have great shelf life at room temperature (they're well wrapped to prevent the humidity from getting to them), snow skin mooncakes, which are wrapped in a rice flour dough, are kept refrigerated.

Gold-dusted swirled pastry mooncakes
Gold-dusted swirled pastry mooncakes

Mooncakes come in many colors as well as styles, though the general shape is round (think moon). These unique mooncakes seem to be wrapped in a swirled pasty that reminded me of a crisp Italian sfogliatelle.

Neon-colored mooncakes
Neon-colored mooncakes

Crazy colored mooncakes that are probably really popular with the kids.

Rolling snow skin dough
Rolling snow skin dough

To the delight of tourists, one of the vendors at VivoCity mall had a chef demonstrating how to make a mooncake. The first step is to roll the dough.

Shaping the mooncakes
Shaping the mooncakes

Once the dough is rolled out, cup it in your hand, fill it, pinch it closed, roll into a ball, and then press into a mooncake mold to achieve the traditional mooncake design on the top.

Try it before you buy it
Try it before you buy it

Every vendor offers samples.

More bags
More bags

Delicately designed tote bags and mooncake boxes show the personality of this particular vendor and try to tempt customers.

Beautiful lucky red mooncake boxes
Beautiful lucky red mooncake boxes

Sturdy gift boxes that resemble jewelry cases are a step up from tote bags. There are even competitions for package design. This year the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts held a competition for mooncake package design. The color red here symbolizes luck and guards against evil spirits.

Orchids
Orchids

Orchids, a popular plant to give as a gift during the Mid-Autumn Festival, are on sale next to the mooncakes.

Bengawan Solo bag
Bengawan Solo bag

I bought my mooncakes from Bengawan Solo, a well known mooncake bakery. My choice was rather humble, though the paper bag was still pretty. I didn’t splurge for the exquisite packaging from some of the other prestigious vendors.

Traditional mooncake
Traditional mooncake

Mooncakes are either round or rectangular. This one has the traditional pastry on the outside, filled with a dense filling, and is baked. The top is usually imprinted with a message in Chinese characters, or simply states the bakery or what the filling is within (originally they were used to communicate secret messages during the rebellion against the Mongols). This one says the bakery's name and that it contains double (salted) egg yolks.

Double yolk filling
Double yolk filling

The mooncake I chose was filled with a mild flavored, dense white lotus paste and was described as “double yellow” because of the two salted egg yolks inside. The yolks' savory flavor cut the sweetness of the filling. Not only is it yummy, but the color is a beautiful bright yellow/orange, just like the moon. How to eat? Just cut into wedges and serve. Popular drinks to serve with mooncakes include sweet wine or sherry, champagne, and of course, Chinese tea.

Pandan filling
Pandan filling

This one was filled with pandan-flavored paste. Pandan is a ubiquitous flavor here in Southeast Asia. The long green leaves of the pandan plant are used both as a green food coloring and to infuse foods and desserts with a nutty, almost hazelnut-like flavor. It’s also not too sweet.