Mooncake madness

Mooncake madness

Traditionalists fear for the future of Chinese culture as time-honoured habits vie with changing tastes for the hearts and minds of youngsters.

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by Renaissance College students: Daga Vaibhav, Samantha Ho, Kelvin Chu, Esther Kwan, Sharon Cheung and Samantha Borje.

Hong Kong is at the crossroads between East and West, a city where the old and new collide. Age-old traditions compete with innovations - a struggle that is played out each year during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

While older people still celebrate with handmade mooncakes, lanterns and fire dragon dances, local firms are putting their own spin on the festival.

XTC Gelato has introduced a popular line of mooncakes filled with ice cream and gelato, wrapped in a mochi skin. XTC marketing director Georgie Riley says the new flavours are proving a hit with locals, especially the younger generation. Although this idea is fresh, measures have been taken to ensure that some aspects of the traditional mooncakes are preserved. The mould is still made of wood, keeping the shape and intricate designs of traditional mooncakes. Instead of egg yolk, they have a moon of mango sorbet.

Homeware emporium G.O.D launched 'Collection 09' in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Their range of mooncakes played on the double meaning of the word 'moon', with a range of eight cheeky designs, including 'Mind the Gap', 'Full Moon' and 'Hot Pants'.

G.O.D marketing manager Cherry Ma Kit-ying says the company used traditional mahjong jargon to name each mooncake, incorporating local culture into the radical designs to create an exciting appearance. To maintain traditional elements of mooncakes, the filling was the same.

Although this is good news for intrepid foodies, many Hongkongers worry the changes are eroding age-old traditions.

Tse Ching-yuen, of the Tai Tung Bakery in Yuen Long, has been crafting handmade mooncakes for decades. He believes the authentic taste and symbolism of mooncakes is being lost in the rush towards more exotic flavours and fillings. 'Big companies are losing the original mooncake essence,' he says. He says they focus on mass production to extend their sales, getting away from the cakes' cultural importance.

Modern Hongkongers must choose between tradition and taste. Will the origins of the festival will get lost in a flood of gimmicks?

Even though new flavours and fillings have swamped the market, a recent mooncake survey carried out by Renaissance College students found more than 70 per cent of local and international teenagers surveyed said they still preferred the traditional cake.

Student Grace Lea says: 'Traditional mooncakes connect me to Chinese culture. Even though modern cakes might be [tastier], they don't really represent traditional culture, as they are changing mooncakes' originality.'

It is contemporary teenagers who have to decide whether or not we accept the globalisation of our culture. It is a tough call because Hong Kong is an international city with other cultures feeding into the existing culture.

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