Have Your Moon Cake and Eat It Too

Cover Story Features

July 6, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen |

Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant, on the third floor of Ala Moana Hotel, celebrates its Mid-Autumn Festival, or moon festival, now through Sept. 8. The traditional Chinese holiday is centered a round the positioning of the moon, as it’s claimed that during this time, the moon is farthest from earth, thus making it appear especially vibrant and full.

Restaurant owner Calvin Wong says Royal Garden — a haven for superlative Hong Kong-style fare — has had the pleasure of offering exceptional moon cakes for the past decade.

“Our moon cakes are made fresh daily from our oven using the best ingredients with absolutely no preservatives,” he says.

It’s recorded that last year alone, the restaurant sold more than 6,000 specially made gift boxes filled with an assortment of these tasty treats. And according to Calvin, moon cakes are a hot commodity this time of year.

“Each year, more and more people come in just to purchase them. Moon cakes are the equivalent of turkey on Thanksgiving,” Calvin says with a laugh. “I invite everyone to check out our Giant Moon Cake while they’re at it.”

He’s referring to the Giant Moon Cake displayed at the entrance of the establishment. Calvin says this impressive, jaw-dropping “pastry on steroids” requires ingredients equal to more than 200 regular-sized moon cakes. Now that’s a mouthful!

During Moon Festival, the Chinese honor the cumulation of families, and it’s a ritual that each family member partakes in the dense pastry, which features a salted duck egg yolk in the center, surrounded by a filling of meat and nuts, or ever-popular red bean or lotus paste enveloped in a sweet, flaky pastry shell that conforms to an original moon cake mold and is embossed with “Royal Garden” in Chinese characters. Each cake is individually wrapped to retain freshness.

“The egg yolk represents the moon,” adds restaurant manager Ian Tam, noting that the moon cake should be cut in such a way that everyone receives a piece of the yolk.

Royal Garden’s abundant selection of moon cake varieties include the best-selling White Lotus Seed Paste with Double Egg Yolk ($27.95), White Lotus Seed Paste with Single Egg Yolk ($25.95) and Mixed Nuts Moon Cake ($27.95). Executive chef Johnny Wong relies on a specific type of lotus seed specially sourced from Wu Nan province in China. The paste, however, is made in Hong Kong. But it doesn’t stop there: Moon cakes comprised of White Lotus Seed Paste with Pine Nuts ($24.95), Mini White Lotus Seed Paste with Egg Yolk ($18.95), Red Bean Paste with Single Egg Yolk ($25.95), Red Bean Paste with Pine Nuts ($24.95) and White Lotus Seed Paste with Double Egg Yolk Gift Set ($38.95) are other sweet and savory options.

“We have customers who wait all year for Moon Festival to arrive so that they can get their moon cakes. It’s a busy time for us,” Calvin confirms.

It’s recommended that you call the restaurant ahead of time to pre-order these Chinese confections, as they are only available while supplies last.

“There are many places that import their moon cakes, and because of that they’re not fresh. That’s not a practice that we follow, so there’s always a great demand,” he adds.

Select stores in Chinatown also have Royal Garden’s handmade moon cakes for sale, including Bo Wah Trading Company, Canton Market and Welcome Market, to name a few.

The restaurant owner says moon cakes will keep for up to a month, but, of course, consuming when fresh is best.

“Moon cakes can be left at room temperature for five days. Any longer than that, they should be kept in the refrigerator,” he advises.

Although Moon Festival is celebrated through the beginning of September, Sept. 8 marks the official holiday, as it falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Asian lunar calendar. On this day, families give thanks for their many blessings and pay homage to past generations.

Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant

Ala Moana Hotel,
410 Atkinson Drive, Third Floor
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11 A.M.-2 P.M. Saturday-Sunday, 10 A.M.2 P.M.
Dinner: Daily, 5:30-10 P.M.

Honolulu, HI 96814

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best