As the mooncake season reaches its peak with the arrival of the Mid-Autumn Festival today, the traditional symbol of family reunion and cultural pastry of Asia is undergoing a reinvention.
With the majority of young consumers in Asia expressing an increasing interest in healthier options, a growing market for mooncakes tailored to dietary preferences and restrictions is opening up across the globe.
Mooncakes, typically consisting of a crust made from cereal flour and vegetable oil and various paste fillings, have been a symbol of unity and have been a cultural food of Asia for over a thousand years.
Different regions have introduced localized flavors, such as chestnut, green beans and red bean paste in Japan; mongo, pandan and ube in the Philippines and durian in Indonesia. In China, the salted egg yolk with lotus seed paste remains one of the most loved combinations.
A shift toward health-conscious offerings
Last week, a report published last week by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) under the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department of Hong Kong SAR revealed findings from its seasonal food surveillance project on mooncakes. Despite the favorable results, the CFS cautioned against the excessive consumption of traditional mooncakes due to their high sugar and fat content.
In line with maintaining a balanced diet, the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health advised consuming mooncakes with water or tea instead of sugary beverages.
Responding to a newer generation of health and image-conscious Millennials and Gen Z, many local companies are innovating to offer mooncakes that integrate health elements, allowing consumers to relish the tradition in a guilt-free manner.
In Malaysia, products from Mooncake Halal Syikin are experiencing high demand this year due to their low-fat, preservative-free content and subtly sweet flavor.
Similarly, Indonesian company La Patisserie has created low-sugar mooncake options in White Lotus, Tausa (Red Bean) and Black Sesame for their customers.
Dietary innovation for wider market
Export orders for mooncakes have seen a surge in the past five years, ushering in an expanded global market presence. In order to encompass a range of dietary choices and restrictions people make, businesses are innovating on the staple food ingredients while preserving the classic taste.
The innovations are reflective of a global strive to diversify the plant-based culinary scene.
Hong Kong’s Green Common company is introducing a vegan mooncake with a golden tender casing and custard filling mixed with plant-based milk and flaxseed powder.
Pure Vegan, a business from Guangdong, China, has launched a gluten-free line where the pastry shell is meticulously crafted from green beans and white kidney beans, inspiring a texture and flavor reminiscent of traditional Cantonese mooncakes.
The mooncakes use figs with pistachio and oats and mixed nuts with blueberry and purple sweet potato to improve the vegan pastry portfolio.
On the other side of the Pacific, in California, Annie Wang has crafted a vegan recipe for salted egg yolk, choosing potatoes as a distinctive ingredient for the vegan egg.
This isn’t her first triumph in innovating traditional Asian pastries; her reinvention of vegan and gluten-free Taiwanese pineapple cakes attained success two years prior at her bakery.
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