The most traditional filling for Cantonese-style mooncakes, homemade white lotus paste is fragrant, delicate and floral. Many store-bought fillings incorporate lard for a richer mouthfeel. Feel free to use it below, though I opted for coconut oil for my own mooncakes, since it's similarly solid at room temperature, but a bit more accessible, and adds a fun coconut undertone to the flavor profile. —Cynthia Chen McTernan
dried lotus seeds, or two 12-ounce cans cooked lotus seeds in water
Place the seeds in a pot with plenty of water and bring it to a simmer over medium-low heat. Let the seeds cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until they are soft enough that you can mash them with a fork.
Drain the cooked seeds, then place them in a food processor with the sugar and a slight pinch of salt (if desired) and blend until smooth. (If you're using canned lotus seeds, skip straight to this step.) You may need to add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water in this step.
Next, pour the purée into a medium saucepan or skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until much of the water has been cooked away and the purée has thickened to a consistency similar to hummus. At this point, if the purée isn’t as smooth as you like, you can blend it again.
When your purée is the consistency of your liking, add the fat of your choice. Most any fat that is solid at room temperature (excluding butter) should work for this.
Stir the mixture until the fat is fully incorporated, then continue to cook over medium heat until the purée becomes glossy and forms a dough that sticks to the spoon in one mass, about 4 to 5 minutes. The consistency should be similar to soft cookie dough at this point. Remove from heat and chill until ready to use.