You may have seen beautiful mooncakes at a Chinese restaurant and not realised what they were. Embossed on their tops with intricate designs, the circular mooncakes are special treats shared with friends and family during the Chinese Mid-autumn or Moon Festival.

Here are 3 interesting facts about Chinese mooncake:

Mooncakes are formed using special molds.

Craftspeople throughout Asia form and carve the mooncake molds out of special woods, including thi or khaya, that are known for their reasonable prices, durability and carving ease. Modern mooncake molds are also made out of plastic and silicone.

The basic shape of most mooncakes is the circle, representing the moon and unity, but there are also molds carved in the shapes of fish, flowers, and other symbols. The designs on top of the mooncakes are often very ornate and delicate, and there are ancient meanings and traditions associated with some of the oldest patterns.

Mooncake fillings are healthy and varied.

Mooncakes are formed by wrapping sweet cake dough around various ingredients, including nuts, dates, and lotus seeds. Traditional fillings include bean paste and chopped nut combinations, as well as golden salt duck eggs to provide a further moon-shaped component to the treat.

Once the dough is firmly formed around the filling, the round blob is packed into the mooncake mold, pressed firmly to shape it, and then the mooncake is popped out of the mold and cooked.

According to legend, mooncakes helped defeat the Mongols.

During the 14th century, the Han people grew fed up with their Mongol rulers and wanted to overthrow them. The only problem was the Mongols' strict and heavy-handed oversight. It was difficult to plan a coup in secret, until one of the rebel advisers hatched a foolproof scheme involving mooncakes.

The Mongols didn't partake in eating mooncakes, but were accustomed to the Hans passing out the treats for blessings and good will at the Mid-autumn Festival. The Hans asked permission to distribute mooncakes to thousands of residents throughout the city to celebrate yet another festival. Once again, the mooncakes were allowed, but this time, inside each cake was a note telling the recipient the date on which to attack the Mongols.

The plot to defeat the Mongols was successful, and the Ming Dynasty was formed as a result. A decree was issued to authorise using mooncakes during the yearly Mid-autumn Festival to celebrate the Han victory over the Mongols.

Mooncakes are a once-a-year treat for most Chinese people, since they are quite rich to eat and time-consuming to create. Modern Chinese families often simply purchase ready-made cakes to share with family and friends, and you, too, will find these mooncakes in many Asian specialty shops and Chinese restaurants in Canada during the Mid-autumn Festival.

To learn more, visit a Chinese food restaurant like Ginger Beef Restaurants Macewan