In Vietnam, nibbling on mooncakes and sipping tea with loved ones is an essential part of the Mid-autumn Festival, or Tết Trung Thu. As long as we can remember, it is tradition to serve bánh nướng and bánh dẻo — golden baked mooncakes and soft sticky rice mooncakes — on the night of the harvest moon. If you are in Vietnam during this festival, you can experience the fun of your own mooncake celebration. Here is all you need to know about Vietnam’s mooncake tradition.

The origin of Vietnamese mooncake

Mooncake originated from China and spread widely around the world, including Vietnam. In China, there are many interesting legends about the origin history of mooncakes that have been passed down by the ancients.

The word ‘mooncake’ first appeared during the reign of China’s Song Dynasty, from 1127 - 1279. By the Ming Dynasty period, mooncakes were a regular feature of the harvest moon festival. Though nobody knows exactly when mooncakes first came to Vietnam, over hundreds of years Vietnamese food has often been influenced by Chinese traditions. 

The word ‘mooncake’ first appeared during the reign of China’s Song Dynasty, from 1127 - 1279

In Vietnam, Tết Trung Thu was seen as a special time for reunion and harmony. Once a year, after a fruitful harvest, families and relatives would gather to relax, sing songs, and drink tea under the light of the full moon. 

Children would look forward to staying up late, carrying star lanterns in the dark, and listening for the drums of lion dancers. Square mooncakes representing the earth and round mooncakes representing the sky were the perfect treat on this magical night. 

The meaning of Vietnamese mooncake

With a round shape full moon, mooncake symbolizes the reunion of all family members, who gather after many days of separation.

However, traditional mooncakes in Vietnam consist of two main types: square and circle. It is believed that the square represents the Earth, the circle represents the sky.

Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by tea. Today, it is customary for businessmen and families to offer the cake to their clients or relatives as presents, helping to fuel a demand for high-end mooncakes.

Mooncake symbolizes the reunion of all family members

Old & new flavors

Long ago there were only two types of mooncakes in Vietnam. Savoury mixed paste mooncakes were made of up to 10 ingredients, including lime leaves, smoked sausage, lotus seeds and a secret sauce or wine. Mixed paste mooncakes would be made in square moulds and baked in the oven. These cakes would be offered on family altars and shared at home. The round mung bean mooncakes were made with sticky rice flour to be eaten fresh. They can be offered in Buddhist pagodas or eaten at home. 

These days, you’ll have many more than two mooncake flavours to choose from. Traditional bakeries normally use ingredients such as lotus seed, coconut meat, black sesame, nuts and young rice to make large mooncakes for everyone to share. More adventurous bakers offer pistachio, coffee, chocolate, jelly, strawberry and even durian mooncakes to their patrons. 

TIP: Because mooncakes are very rich, they pair perfectly with hot green tea. Oolong tea is best for savoury mooncakes, while floral teas go nicely with sweet mooncakes.

Mooncakes pair perfectly with tea

Mooncake as gifts

Gifting mooncakes between family members, colleagues and businesses has become a favourite element of Tết Trung Thu. As gifts, the presentation of the cakes is just as important as the taste. Every year, bakeries create new styles, colours and flavours to please the market, and design beautiful boxes to showcase the cakes as expensive gift sets.

In the weeks leading up to Tết Trung Thu, you’ll see mooncake stalls pop up on streets all over Vietnam. Top hotels debut artistic mooncake sets with carefully thought-out concepts for businesses to give their best clients. Two weeks before the holiday, which always falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, is the ideal time to send mooncakes to the people on your list.

Mooncake as gifts

Mooncake surprises

A favourite part of eating mooncakes is discovering the taste of the filling underneath the crust, and the surprise waiting inside. In the past not all mooncakes had an insert, and to find a salted duck egg yolk in your mooncake was an envied piece of luck. Nowadays, there are enough eggs to go around. You can even buy mooncakes with two egg yolks inside if you like.

Beyond round and square mooncakes, you can find delightful mooncakes shaped like rabbits, lanterns, fish and peonies, and mooncakes with snow skin (bánh dẻo) or flaky crusts (bánh nướng). Some bakers decorate their mooncakes with a piece of gold leaf, or hide crunchy nuts, chocolate truffles, or tropical jams inside. Of course, the best mooncakes are always made with fresh ingredients and no preservatives. They are best eaten within a week or two. 

Differentiate some types of mooncakes

Mooncake in Vietnam are usually in the shape of a circle, about 10cm diameter or square with an edge length of about 7-8 cm, width of about 4-5 cm. Compared to Western cakes, mooncakes are much sweeter. 

Based on shape

To repeat an earlier point, Vietnamese traditional mooncakes consist of 2 kinds, which are square and circle shape.

The top of the moon cake is printed with many beautiful stylized patterns and simple but delicate words.

In addition to the two basic shapes, now there are also moon cakes with the shapes of carp, chicks, bears or rabbits based on the favourite animals of kids.

Mooncakes appear in various shapes & sizes

Based on crust

There are 2 main types: Glutinous crust and baked crust

  • Glutinous soft crust: The crust is white, using cooked glutinous flour, grinded and sifted (sometimes a part of corn or wheat starch may be added). Other ingredients for this crust include sugar water, grapefruit attar, cooking oil, which help to prevent the dough from becoming dry. The crust has more flavors and attractive colors, with the support of food coloring, green tea powder, pineapple leaves, passion fruit, coffee, strawberries …

  • Baked moon cake: unlike glutinous cakes using sticky rice flour, the dough for making baked goods is wheat flour. The better the flour, the softer the crust is. Other ingredients for baked goods include sugar water, cooking oil, baking powder and a few drops of coconut water if it is available. To add flavor, color and determine the sweetness and softness of baked mooncake, a good sugar water should be used. Sugar water for baked goods is relatively sophisticated, it is often cooked very early to have time to become dark, dense, rich, and helps the cake to be soft and golden brown.

Based on stuffing

  • Sweet mooncake: This type of mooncake are often filled with green beans, red beans, lotus seeds, mangoes and coconut milk, taro, chocolate, green tea, cheese …
  • Salty mooncake: This is the most popular cake market on the market with a variety of flavors and stuffings to meet the needs of the majority of customers. Salty mooncake have different kinds of fillings such as: mixed, roasted chicken, jambon roasted chicken, sausage, lean meat, … accompanied by the taste of salted eggs, the sweetness of the crust will give customers a flavor The taste is perfectly mixed.

  • Vegetarian mooncake: Since recent years, the demand for enjoying vegetarian mooncake has increased. Because some customers no longer like the fatty taste of the grease found in salty mooncake or traditional baked mooncake, they have switched to this line. Vegetarian mooncake with ingredients mainly from green beans, pineapple, lotus seeds or taro which will bring a light flavor to customers, not causing anorexia, no grease, as well as reduce the risk of using preservatives.

Top 10 mooncake flavors

That said, based on the shape, fillings, or stuffing, we can have plenty kind of mooncake with various flavors. Below are the top 10 popular flavors that you should try if you visit Vietnam during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

1. Traditional mixed nuts

Despite thousands of modern fillings, traditional mixed flavor has been the most preferable to many Vietnamese people. This kind of filling is a mix of sophisticated ingredients including five kernels: lotus seeds, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, peanuts and sesame seeds. This combination can be added more ingredients such as walnuts, cashew, Chinese sausage, lemon leaves, roast chicken and salted egg yolk. Also, expensive shark fin and bird nests are added to make high-end products.

2. Lotus seed paste

Lotus seeds are especially good for cardiovascular system, anti-aging and night sleep. That’s why the Vietnamese locals consider lotus seeds as a traditional therapy and a favorite material. Lotus seed paste is made from dried lotus seeds which create a sweet and smooth filling paste of mooncakes. The traditional-style mooncake is usually filled with pure lotus single yolk and a single salted egg yolk in the center.

3. Red/Green bean paste

Thanks to not-so-sweet and easy-to-eat flavor, red or green bean paste is a perfect alternative to traditional mixed nuts. Both sweet and salty filling made from bean are widely interested by lots of Vietnamese people. Interestingly, this mooncake flavor is not only easy to taste but also simple to make. The harmony of organic ingredients like red bean, green bean, cooking oil, white sugar, sticky flour and sesame oil has created the smooth paste.

4. Matcha mooncake

Green tea brings a fresh and flavorsome taste into plenty of Vietnamese food, ranging from ice cream, cookies, yogurt to mooncakes. Green tea mooncakes are perfect for Matcha lovers; because unlike usual crusts, the mooncakes have a soft and slightly chewy texture of snow skin which is similar to mochi. Chewing a bite of green tea mooncake, you’ll feel a taste of fresh matcha and a lingering sweet aftertaste.

5. Mochi mooncake

Mochi mooncakes, also called snow skin or snowy mooncakes, use a cooked glutinous rice flour crust which gives you a soft and chewy texture. Rooted in Singaporean culture, snow skin mooncakes are made by Japanese mochi recipes with different colors and flavors consisting of green bean, fruits, jams, chocolate, coffee, cheese, durian, etc. Inspite of being served chilled, this no-bake mooncake brings a unique savor of soft crust combined with refreshing taste after refrigerator.

6. Taro paste

The flaky texture and nice fragrant of taro made a great ingredients for mooncakes. Recipe of taro mooncakes isn’t as complicated as the one of traditional mixed mooncakes. The essential ingredients include smooth taro paste, sticky flour, wheat flour, malt, cooking oil and sugar. Especially, the filling of taro mooncakes will be more delicious with one or two salted egg yolks.

7. Coconut mooncake

A tenderly sweet filling made of coconut offers you the most appealing and the healthiest mooncake than ever. One of the popular combinations contains shredded coconut, young coconut milk, lotus seed and sesame seed. Coconut mooncakes give tasters a distinctively mesmerizing savor unlike other mooncakes. Such a savory mooncake to die for!

8. Pineapple leaf paste

A mooncake filled with pineapple leaf paste brings a sugary and refreshing bitter. Furthermore, thanks to the abundance of nutrients in pineapple leaves, you can relieve flu, fever; cure diarrhea, TB disease; help smoothing digestion system and other health issues. Frequently mixed with green bean, mooncakes made from pineapple leaf is unsurprisingly prevalent among Vietnamese people.

9. Jelly mooncake

Jelly version of Vietnamese mooncake is made from gracilaria or agar jelly, and decorated by vibrant colors, plenteous patterns with the colorful centre. In addition to normal fillings, jelly mooncakes are often filled with soft fillings such as flan cake, caramel and milk jelly. This type of mooncakes is fresh without preservative, so that it’s best served chilled as a refreshing dessert and preserved in a short time.

10. Black garlic mooncake

Black garlic has been the weirdest and wackiest flavor in the history of mooncakes. Besides, black garlic has plenty of amazing advantages: cardiovascular protection, anti-virus, cancer prevention, lowering cholesterol, immune booster, etc. Instead of colorful crusts, this mooncake has a great variety of fillings and a black crust created from finely ground black garlic. The mystery of gothic color must arouse your curiosity about what the mooncake tastes like. Once the cake hits you with strong garlic flavor at first bite, you’ll ease into the sweetness of the caramelized paste.

Best places to buy Vietnamese mooncakes

Hanoi

In Hanoi, five-star hotels such as the Metropole and Intercontinental always debut beautiful sets of premium mooncakes each year. Small bakeries such as The Vuu Cakes create lovely mooncake sets you can order online. You can also pick up speciality mooncakes from places such as Marou Chocolate, or buy mooncakes for a good cause from Hopebox online.

Below are some recommended address that you can buy the best mooncakes in Hanoi

Bao Phuong

Bao Phuong is most famous for its mooncakes. Mooncakes are made all around the year, not just in the Mid-Autumn phase. During the time of Mid-Autumn month, this store is particularly crowned. If you are determined to go buy mooncake by Bao Phuong, you should prepare beforehand because you will have to wait and sometimes, they are all sold out and you might have to go home without any mooncake in hand.

  • Address: 
    • Branch 1: 201A Thuy Khue, Tay Ho, Hanoi; 
    • Branch 2: 183 Thuy Khue, Tay Ho, Hanoi. 
  • Opening hours: 7am – 9pm 
  • Price: from VND25,000 – 70,000/piece

Ninh Huong

Unlike Bao Phuong, Ninh Huong only sells moon cake during the Mid-Autumn time. Other times of the year, Ninh Huong supports their business by selling lotus seed and tea. Ninh Huong is particularly favored because of its natural taste created by a traditional process. In Ninh Huong, the filling is straight, instead of mixing power with the respective additional flavor. To preserve the natural flavor, they do not use preservatives, therefore, the expiry date is just within one week.

  • Address: 22 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
  • Opening hours: 7am – 9pm 
  • Price: from VND45,000 – 75,000 / piece

Ba Dan

The store is named after the founding mother of the brand. Originally, Ba Dan didn’t make moon cake for money. She baked mooncakes only in Mid-Autumn for her family and acquaintances. Her cake was so good that people started to request her to produce it for sale. And that is the beginning story of one of the most famous mooncake stores in Hanoi. The store is now a family business run by the descendants of her.

  • Address
    • Branch 1: 126, Alley 554, Truong Chinh Street, Thanh Xuan Dist., Hanoi
    • Branch 2: 52 Hang Be, Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
    • Branch 3: 422 Tay Son, Hai Ba Trung Dist., Hanoi
  • Website: http://banhtrungthubadan.vn/
  • Opening hours: 7am – 9pm 
  • Standard cake price: VND45,000 – 85,000/piece
  • Pre-order special cake: VND100,000 – 500,000/piece

Phuong Soat

Tucked in a small alley of Hanoi, this mooncake store is quite hard to locate. Even though not having a great location, it is still one of the most-favored mooncake stores of Hanoians for a really long time. Mooncakes offered by Phuong Soat comes in diverse and fascinating looks, for example, a shiny yellow-brown fish.

  • Address
    • Branch 1: 10 Vọng Hà - P. Chương Dương - Q. Hoàn Kiếm - TP. Hà Nội
    • Branch 2: 75 Hàng Chiếu, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
  • Website: http://phuongsoat.com/
  • Standard cake price: VND50,000 – 85,000/piece
  • Pre-order special cake: VND100,000 – 400,000/piece

Ho Chi Minh

Givral Bakery

This mooncake shop will give you a lot of interesting choices. From affordable mooncakes to premium mooncakes. More specifically, Givral mooncakes not only have many attractive flavors but also elaborately refined in design so it is very suitable to choose it as a gift.

  • Address: 499 Quang Trung, Go Vap district, Ho Chi Minh City 
  • Opening hours: 6am – 10pm 
  • Price: ranges from VND454,000 – 865,000/1 box.

Phuc Long mooncake shop

It attracts customers with very special cake flavors. Besides, Phuc Long mooncake has an extremely luxurious and delicate design 

  • Address: 4th floor, Food Creative cuisine area, Bitexco building – 2 Hai Trieu, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City 
  • Opening hours: 7am – 10:30 pm 
  • Price: VND290,000 – 790,000/1 box.

Popular Vietnamese mooncake recipe

You can first watch the below video for the general ideas of how to make Vietnamese mooncake

Ingredients

No. FOR THE CAKE’S COVER FOR THE CAKE’S FILLING
1 240g flour 400g grated coconut
2 160g sugar cake 4-5 boxes (40g per box) condensed milk
3 30g cooking oil 200g coconut
4 1 (18-20g) egg yolk 80g, roasted white sesame
5 1 tsp (10g) peanut butter 60g cake flour
6   2 tsp (10 ml) juice
7   grapefruit peels
8   1 egg yolk
9   1/2 egg whites

Direction

STEP 1: MAKE THE FILLING

Time: 1-1.5hrs

Mix shredded coconut with condensed milk in a certain proportion and leave the mixture about 30 to 45 minutes.

Heat coconut milk and add shredded coconut. Stir thoroughly until coconut milk dries, add white sesame, a little of wheat flour, and pomelo essential oil. Make filling pieces.

STEP 2: MAKE THE DOUGH

Time: 1-1.5hrs

Mix wheat flour with water and sugar to make dough.

Dough should be the texture of play-doh- not sticky but not too stiff.

Wrap dough for 30 to 45 minutes .

STEP 3: SHAPING & BAKING

Time: 30-45mns

The mold should be about 75g, including 50g filling and 25g dough. However, if you want to have thick dough, you may use 40g filling and 35g dough.

Place filling in the middle of o the dough and shape the dough into a ball around the filling, being careful not to tear the dough. Press it gently into your mold to create the pattern on top of the cake.

Top the mold to release the mooncake and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Bake the cakes for 10 minutes until they are golden brown.

Take the cakes out of the oven and knead the cake in a coat of yolk

Continue to bake the cake for 3 or 5 minutes.

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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

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