Flaky yet soft: the unique taste of Hainan-style mooncakes

By Chen Shumin / HICN / Updated: 16:06,10-September-2022

Mooncake is a full moon-shaped dessert exchanged, served and consumed during the Mid-Autumn Festival, an important traditional Chinese festival which falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar.

The flavor and texture of mooncakes vary in different places across the country due to different production techniques and fillings. Unique to the tropical island province, the Hainan-style mooncake has a flaky crust, and is lower in fat and sugar content than other styles of mooncake.

For many locals in downtown Haikou, the capital of the province, Hainan-style mooncakes produced by time-honored brands - with their consistent production techniques and tastes - always evoke a gastronomical nostalgia for the festival, making these brands a long-time favorite with locals.

The Hainan-style mooncake, despite being rich in ingredients, manages to retain a lightness of both texture and flavor. (Photo/Yuan Chen)

Plump with a clear outline and pattern, the standardized Hainan-style mooncake emerged in Haikou in 2008, and starting from 2009, has been counted among the 9 official styles of Chinese mooncake, which also include mooncakes from Guangdong, Beijing, Suzhou, Shanxi, Chaoshan, Yunnan, Taiwan, and Harbin. In 2017, its production technique was included on Hainan’s provincial intangible cultural heritage list.

Combining the qualities of the soft syrup crust of the Guangdong-style mooncake and the flaky crust of the Suzhou-style mooncake, the Hainan-style mooncake has gradually become well-known for its soft texture and delicate sweetness.

A staff member checks mooncakes at a Hainan-style mooncake shop in Haikou. (Photo/Xinhua)

"Through centuries of inheritance and improvement, the Hainan-style mooncake has gradually acquired its soft texture and flaky, well-laminated crust. Its low-fat and low-sugar contents also fit current healthy eating trends," said Fu Zhiren, a master of Hainan-style mooncake making.

According to Fu, the ratio of crust to filling in traditional mooncakes is 2:3. The crust is made by mixing cake flour with leaf lard (fat from the rib area of pigs). Shredded coconut, sweet lotus paste, salted egg yolk, and nuts are all common ingredients for the fillings.

Another constant of the Hainan-style mooncake lies in its favorable price, which is reflected in its simple, unadorned packaging. Haikou’s time-honored brands have never competed with fancy and costly packing, focusing instead on producing the well-loved seasonal dessert with consistent quality and flavor.

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