The roots of the Mid-Autumn Festival are steeped in legend, but I won’t bore you with the gory details. In brief, it’s about a girl who lives on the moon and a young man on Earth who fall in love despite the fact that they can’t be together. They are only allowed to get together once a year, on the 15th of September (the lunar calendar). Tis’ where the origins of the Shanghai Savory Mooncakes began.
In honor of family and the belief that long-lost loves might be rekindled, we observe the Mid-Autumn Festival today.
This is the explanation for why mooncakes are often spherical in shape.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is nearly as significant to Chinese culture as Chinese New Year, and the preparation of the festival’s signature moon cake varies widely from one region to the next. This mooncake recipe is savory.
Where I grew up in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai, we love xian rou yue bing, savory mooncakes stuffed with ground pork. Most Shanghai residents will go weak in the knees at the mere mention of xian rou yue bing. In other words, I can’t wait to show you this dish.
If you think there’s no need to make things from scratch, I can assure you that you will not come across anything like them in your area (unless you happen to live somewhere in China). Shanghai savory mooncakes have a distinctive dough or crust that sets them apart from the standard chewy, sugary moon cakes.
There are layers of flaky, crumbly sweetness with a savory beef filling, not unlike pastry dough. Strange, right? To be honest, no. The sweet and salty filling and the flaky pastry top are a great complement to the typically sweet regional cuisine of this area.
People in my city of Shanghai, where the Mid-Autumn Festival is held, have started lining up early to get their hands on some of their beloved Xian Rou Yue Bing. Try this dish and let us know what you think to find out what all the fuss is about!
And a warning: this is a lengthy post with many detailed images. We broke it up into thirds. In this instance, assembling each component is a breeze. Oh, and did you know what? You won’t need any special moon cake molds for these tasty treats.
For The Meat Filling:
- 450g of ground pork
- 1 very finely chopped scallion
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
For The Soft Dough:
- 2¼ cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1/3 cup of lard
- 2½ tablespoons of sugar
For The Pastry Dough:
- 1½ cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of lard
For Assembling the Mooncakes:
- 1 egg for egg wash
- ¼ cup of toasted sesame seeds
- All of the components for the meat filling should be thoroughly combined and mixed. The filling will get rubbery if you whip or swirl it too much. Put in the refrigerator and cover for later.
- The soft dough is made by completely combining flour, sugar, and fat in a mixing dish. Then, working in 3–4 additions of water at a time, knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball.
- Put a moist cloth over it and set it away. Avoid having dry dough by not using too much flour. Making a ball of dough and flattening it is a good quality check. In no way should the edges break.
- Put the flour and lard in a bowl and knead until you have a ball of dough for the pastry. Before serving, make sure it has been chilled for at least twenty minutes, and then wrap it in plastic.
- Both the soft dough and the pastry dough need to be cut into 24 pieces before they can be used to make mooncakes. In all, you should have 48 pieces of dough. Make an effort to separate them out and roll them into balls. As an aid, we employed the usage of a scale. Keep the dough from drying out while you work by covering it with a damp paper towel.
- Gently flatten a single ball of dough into a tiny circular disc. Use your palms to press down on a slab of soft dough and place a piece of pastry dough in the center to seal it.
- Then stretch it into an elongated oval. Form it into a cigar with a more consistent diameter. After stretching the cigar into a long rope, roll it back into a tight, compact bundle.
- Put some pressure on the bundle and set it upright. Roll out the dough into a disc that is 3.5 inches in diameter using the rolling pin.
- Place about a tablespoon’s worth of beef filling (about 20 grams) in the middle of the disc and pinch the edges together to seal. Don’t overfill them; otherwise, they will explode when baking.
- The dough should now be gently pressed into a flat moon cake shape. Arrange it, seam side down, on a baking pan. Now, repeat the procedure with the leftover dough and filling to use it all up. A total of 24 moon cakes will require two baking sheets. Get your oven up to temperature (400 degrees) and put your baking rack in the exact center.
- Egg wash and sesame seeds for the top of each cake. Once the oven has been preheated, continue baking the moon cakes for another 25 minutes or until the edges start to get golden.