The Peninsula Taps Into Tradition With Global Mid-Autumn Celebrations

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Fresh mooncakes at The Peninsula after Chef Yip Wing Wah’s demonstration for guests on September 17, 2013. (Jing Daily)

The Peninsula sold out 65,000 boxes of its legendary egg custard mooncakes in Hong Kong this year as part of its Mid-Autumn festivities, and now nostalgic U.S.-based Chinese fans have the chance to purchase them even if they can’t make it back for the holidays.

To celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival for the first time in the United States, the hotel’s locations in both New York and Chicago are offering special promotional activities which highlight its Chinese heritage. The company flew in its Dim Sum Ambassador and inventor of the hotel’s distinctive mooncake, Chef Yip Wing Wah, to conduct demonstrations on making mooncakes in both New York and Chicago, complete with a mooncake tasting paired with Chinese tea and champagne. In addition, the hotels have also brought in spa therapists from Shanghai and Beijing, and will be offering a Chinese tea and mooncake afternoon tea session that will be available in both locations as well.

As Chinese travelers serve as a growing market force worldwide and an ever-increasing number of affluent Chinese are settling abroad, The Peninsula has been making a concerted effort to expand its Chinese holiday offerings not only in China, but worldwide. According to Rachel Farnham, communications and marketing coordinator for The Peninsula New York, the Mid-Autumn activities were created as part of the company’s marketing strategy to promote Chinese culture. “The idea was really born out of the celebration of Chinese heritage and the Chinese festivals” after The Peninsula’s Chinese New Year promotions earlier this year, she said. “This year we decided to grow that theme in adding the Mid-Autumn Festival as well.”

Invented in 1986, the hotel’s pastry-like mooncakes have become a veritable institution in Hong Kong. According to Teddy Leung, the manager of food and beverage for The Peninsula in Hong Kong, who flew in to oversee the events, the hotel “produced only 2,000 boxes” in 1987, but the number has been growing steadily ever since as demand has risen. The cakes have a flakier crust than typical mooncakes, giving them a distinctive texture that has made them wildly popular in both Hong Kong and elsewhere. In Beijing, where austerity policies have caused a crackdown on buying expensive mooncakes, The Peninsula’s sales have remained pretty much unscathed due to the fact that they fall in the upper-mid range of pricing and are intended for consumption.

Chef Yip’s Cantonese-language demonstration likely tapped into a sense of nostalgia for attendees who had grown up in Hong Kong and were used to the mooncake tradition. “We were trying to attract locals to this type of event … we attracted Chinese-Americans or Chinese who have now relocated to New York or Chicago,” said Farnham. “It helps grow awareness within our local markets.”

Since the mooncakes just went on sale on Friday in the United States, sales figures are not yet available, but there is evidence that they may become quite popular. “We have had a couple people come in off the street asking for the mooncakes,” said Farnham.

Look below for more photos from yesterday’s demonstration:

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Chef Yip prepares the mooncakes for baking. (Jing Daily)

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The mooncakes are pressed into the hotel’s signature mold. (Jing Daily)

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Mooncake ingredients on display. (Jing Daily)

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Mooncakes ready for baking. (Jing Daily)

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Chef Yip brings out the completed mooncakes. (Jing Daily)

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A close-up of a freshly baked mooncake, which is stamped with The Peninsula’s name. (Jing Daily)

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