It’s almost that time of year again. Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival will be on September 8, 2014. One of the main ways it is celebrated is by eating mooncakes. In anticipation of the upcoming holiday, I made snow skin mooncakes, a no-bake mooncake made with roasted glutinous rice flour.

Traditional mooncakes have a pastry shell, and a sweet filling. Some of the common fillings include red bean, lotus paste, and jujube paste. Occasionally, they also have a salted duck egg yolk in the center. They are usually gifted to friends and family this time of year, and are eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival while gazing at the full moon. Because they are so rich and sweet, they are eaten in small wedges, accompanied by hot tea.

Snow Skin Mooncakes became popular a few years ago. In modern times, there has been a trend towards creating healthier mooncakes. You’ll often find fruit fillings, or crusts made out of agar jelly or other material. Snow Skin Mooncakes are made out of roasted glutinous rice flour. The texture is somewhat similar to mochi, but much softer. They are usually white, hence the name, but are also made into other colors for aesthetic purposes and to denote flavors.

The ever popular Carnitas’ Snack Shack opened its second location last week, inside Del Mar Highlands Town Center (which seems to be the designated spot for second restaurant locations as it also houses the North County branches of Searsucker and Snooze). I was extremely excited to check out the new digs, which are bigger with indoor seating and a better parking situation.

The menu is pretty much the same, though they do offer a monthly doughnut special and the pork burger is a permanent menu item at this new branch. The restaurant has both indoor seating and some patio seating.

While the restaurant was busy, it was not nearly as crowded as the original location, which is what I was hoping for. We were able to order and grab a table right away.

Elvis Doughnut

The doughnut had a peanut butter glaze and is topped with chocolate chips, candied bacon and a cinnamon sugar dusted plantain chip. I was a little disappointed that the donut itself was plain, with all the flavors coming from the frosting and toppings. This was a decent doughnut, but a bit overpriced at $5.

Pork Burger

This is the best pork belly recipe I’ve made. The pork skin is incredibly crispy, perfectly golden, and the prep work is very minimal compared to all the other pork bellies I’ve made. No need to score or puncture holes in the skin. My search is over for the perfect pork belly recipe.

I’ve been obsessed with making the perfect crispy pork belly. I’ve had some success (here and here), but one thing that really bothered me was having to score the skin because it makes it hard to slice pieces with the skin intact. I’ve eaten pork belly that has unscored skin so I knew it was possible, but I hadn’t yet come across a recipe that didn’t require that step and when I tried not scoring it, the skin just wouldn’t get crispy enough.