Can a mooncake be healthy? With all the warnings Hong Kong authorities have been dishing out recently to beware the excess fat, sugar, sodium and even cancer-causing chemicals in the festive treats, the annual Mid-Autumn Festival seems like the ultimate diet devil.
A casual poll of Facebook friends threw up sceptics who believe healthy mooncakes to be an oxymoron.
“The healthiest ones are the ones someone gets to before you do,” said Arti Mulchand.
“They’re called ‘don’t eat them’,” said another friend, Ben Kwon.
Shima Shimizu, a Hong Kong vegan raw-food chef, begs to disagree. Her creations, with exotic flavours like raw cacao and mango, and matcha strawberry, are part of a growing offering of healthier mooncakes available in Hong Kong.
“Our mission is to make food that is free from white sugar, gluten and chemicals. We also wanted to make an alternative available for those who’d like to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with a mooncake but couldn’t for different reasons. Some are avoiding pork [lard] and some have dietary restrictions,” says Shimizu.
“There are many new-style mooncakes out in the market now and I think Hong Kong people are looking for new gifts to send for this festival. We are definitely receiving more orders this year. In the past most of our orders were from expats, but this year we’ve seen a number of Chinese customers ordering too.”
Shimizu, who trained at the Living Light Culinary Institute in California and set up her healthy food company Sesame Kitchen in 2010, has sold about 1,200 boxes of her raw and organic mooncakes this festive season. Eating her mooncakes, she says, is like eating a handful of nuts, seeds and dried fruit – they are packed with good fats, have a low glycaemic index and are free of empty calories and cholesterol.
Still, Shimizu advises eaters of mooncakes – healthy or otherwise – to exercise self-control. “No matter what it is, eating in moderation is essential,” she says. “Even too much water can harm you.”
Looking for a healthier mooncake this Mid-Autumn Festival? Here are six options in Hong Kong
Foodcraft raw vegan mooncakes, HK$198 for box of four
Shimizu’s mooncakes are sold under this health food brand. There are four flavours to choose from: raw cacao skin with mango filling, matcha skin with strawberry filling, strawberry skin with cacao filling, and mango skin with matcha filling. Base ingredients include oat flour, desiccated coconut, coconut flower nectar, cashews, and Himalayan crystal salt.
Tel: 2884 1299; foodcraft.hk
iBakery mini healthy mooncakes, HK$168 for box of four
Eat well and do good with these healthy mooncakes from iBakery, a social enterprise backed by hospital group Tung Wah. Handmade by people with special needs, the mooncakes use maltitol, which has the same sweetness but half the calories of white sugar, for their white lotus seed paste filling. Each mooncake has one salty egg yolk.
Available through online grocery store jousun.com
Tel: 2352 2700, facebook.com/iBakeryhk
Sourdough Diary vegan mooncakes, HK$208 for box of four
Raw, gluten-free and containing no refined sugar, these mooncakes by health blogger vANGIEtarian use healthy ingredients such as almond, longan, dried fig, walnut, hazelnut, sesame and date. Available in matcha, cacao, berry and vanilla flavours.
Green Common hand-crafted vegan blueberry mixed nuts mini mooncakes, HK$188 for box of four/HK$268 for box of six
Made with blueberries and mixed nuts, this mini mooncake is dairy- and egg-free. It also contains less salt, oil and 58 per cent less sugar than a traditional mooncake.
Tel: 2263 3153, greencommon.com
The Cakery guilt-free mooncakes, HK$238 for box of four
The so-called guilt-free mooncakes from this local health-conscious bakery do not contain gluten, dairy, eggs or refined sugar. Four flavours are available: sesame, red date, gojiberries chocolate, and fig. Base ingredients include almond flour, maple syrup and mix of other fruits, nuts and seeds.
Tel: 6683 3833, thecakery.com
The Mira organic blue agave mini mooncakes, HK$398 for box of eight
Crafted by chefs of The Mira hotel’s Michelin-recommended restaurant Cuisine Cuisine, these mooncakes are sweetened with blue agave syrup instead of sugar.
Tel: 2315 5222, themirahotel.com