The Many Faces of Mooncakes

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The cookbook author Betty Liu grew up in a California neighborhood with many Chinese bakeries but could not rely on them to satisfy her mooncake cravings.

“Most of them only sold the classic molded Cantonese mooncake,” she said. Ms. Liu’s parents are from Shanghai, where mooncakes are flaky and spherical, stuffed with juicy pork. Cantonese mooncakes, on the other hand, are dense, hockey puck-shaped pastries with soft, chewy crusts.

When Ms. Liu posted about the pork mooncakes on her Instagram, people accused her of inauthenticity, even though it was a recipe from her mother, who based it on memories of the ones she had eaten in China. “I got a couple of comments that were like: ‘These aren’t mooncakes. Don’t pass them off as mooncakes,’” Ms. Liu said. “But they were only familiar with the Cantonese style.”

While there are many regional mooncake variations throughout Asia, people are most familiar with the Cantonese iterations because the first Asian bakeries outside Asia were Cantonese. They also became the garden variety around the world because of the global influence of Hong Kong, where Cantonese cuisine is the standard.

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