Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival, is a Chinese holiday which falls on September 22, 2010 this year.
During this holiday, it is tradition to eat mooncakes. If you’ve been to a chinese supermarket lately, you’ve probably seen the large display of these little desserts, which are usually tucked inside elaborately decorated boxes (I always keep the boxes to store stuff.)
Last year, I went a little overboard on buying mooncakes, so this year, I decided to keep it simple. Since mooncakes are not very healthy and a bit on the pricey side, I limited myself to a single mooncake. Normally, I buy a box, invite people over and we cut the cakes and serve it with tea. The problem is, I seem to be the only person who really enjoys mooncakes and then I end up eating way too many.
In many parts of Asia, this holiday is celebrated with lantern decorations, a lot of food, dragon dancing, etc. The mooncakes offerings have also gotten more elaborate and expensive through the years. I’ve seen several asian blogs that showcase the intricate mooncake designs that come out each year. Unfortunately, I have not seen them in the US. In the US, I’ve only seen the traditional golden brown mooncakes.
There are many myths and legends surrounding the Moon Festival. Almost all of the tales end with a person being up on the moon. It is said that on the day of Moon Festival, the moon is especially big and bright, and so people often search to see if they can see this person who lives in the moon. I remember searching in vain when I was a little girl.
Mooncakes traditionally have a round shape. They are golden brown in color. The outside is a thin layer of skin, and it is mainly made up of filling. The most traditional fillings are red bean or lotus paste. The most expensive mooncakes are usually white lotus paste with a double egg yolk in the middle.
Mooncakes are very sweet and are traditionally served with hot tea. I’ve always thought it is ironic that the mooncake is a chinese dessert. Coming from a chinese family, my parents are always complaining of desserts being too sweet or too rich. Most chinese desserts are very light and not that sweet. Chinese cakes are usually like chiffon cakes, and the breads are also lighter and airier. Chinese people also are very health conscious. They eat a variety of herbs and ingredients because of the health and medicinal benefits.
And yet the mooncake seems to represent all the things that chinese people don’t like in food. It’s extremely sweet (most people can only eat it in small quantities) and extremely unhealthy. My mom is constantly warning me not too eat too many.
You can read more about the different Moon Festival myths here. You can see my post from last year here.
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Yes, I think the ones in Hong Kong tend to be made better, and higher quality. Though they can be pricey. Taiwan ones are good too, but not as many Taiwan brands. JJ Bakery usually has good ones. My fav is definitely the lotus seed filling.
Thanks for the mooncake info! I’ll use it next year. This year I just bought one from J.J. Bakery in Torrance. It was great but I don’t go up there much. I like the plain ones with just lotus seed.
So the best ones are made in Hong Kong?
I hope you like the ones you got. I’ve never had any before from the Philippines. I think the filling can make such a difference between loving a mooncake and hating it.
My mom brought back a big box of mooncakes when she got back from the Philippines. My dad and I weren’t sure what they were or why they only came out once a year – so thanks for the enlightenment!
Yes I do have some tips. A word of warning first though. While Ranch99 has tons of mooncakes, usually by the day of there is very few left. The ones that are left are usually the nontraditional flavors, ones I personally don’t really like, such as mixed nuts, durian, fish, chicken. Heh. So I don’t know how much of a collection you’ll have to choose from if you haven’t bought your cakes yet.
But in general, I think the first thing to do to narrow down your selection is what flavors you are looking for. There are variety packs with many flavors or there are ones that are just one flavor. Even if you can’t read chinese writing, if you flip to the back and look at the ingredients, you can see the types of filling in mooncakes. Some of the brands I enjoy most are Sheng Kee and Kee Wah and also ones from Hong Kong. (These are also the ones you’ll usually see people get and give as gifts to others) Usually the nicer the packaging, the more expensive they are. If you aren’t willing to pay too much, the cheaper brands aren’t necessarily bad. They are usually a bit oilier though. The cheaper brands tend to be made in China and Vietnam. Hope this helps.
So glad to hear you liked it!
Yes, tea is a must =)
Do you have tips on which brand mooncakes are best? There are a ton to choose from at Ranch 99
I just tried my first lotus paste mooncake and loved it.
so sad i don’t have a mooncake in my hands right now!
Don’t forget the tea 🙂