01 November 2008

Eating the Moon

Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the more important holidays in Chinese culture. It celebrates the largest full moon of the year, under whose bright light people can bring in their harvests. By the western calendar, this generally happens in mid-September.

Nowadays it's more about the eating of mooncakes.


Mooncakes (lotus seed paste filling) from John the Scientist who sent them from San Francisco, where they're sold year-round. Thanks John! :)


A mooncake is not a cake. It's a dense pastry with a thin outer crust and either bean paste or lotus seed paste filling the interior. Often there is a whole egg yolk in the middle. Bean paste is used in lots of Chinese bakery items that are available all the time, but lotus seed paste is only found in mooncakes. The latter is more expensive but also tastes better.

Mooncakes should not be confused with moon pies. Moon pies (which are not pies) are a popular chocolate and marshmallow snack item in the south-central U.S. They're yummy too. :)

13 comments:

Nathan said...

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival.

vince said...

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival as well. And those mooncakes look very goo.

MWT said...

To be clear, it's not Mid-Autumn Festival right now. That was six weeks ago. ;)

Although, on the other hand, it sort of counts as mid-Autumn here ...

John the Scientist said...

They're from the Golden Gate Bakery. All the gweilo go there for the egg custards, but real Chinese people go for the Moon Cakes.

Glad they got there without the USPS bashing them into a pulp.

Anne C. said...

Mmmm... moon cakes. That's one of the things I miss after quitting tai chi. (They have an annual Autumn Moon Banquet.)

brenda013 said...

Well, where did Anne's Tai Chi people get their mooncakes. They look extremely yummy!

John the Scientist said...

Oh yes, the Chinese characters baked into the top read "Golden Gate White Lotus". If they have an egg yolk in the middle, the "white character is painted red with food coloring. You can identify what kind of Moon Cake it is - if you read Chinese.

Random Michelle K said...

Our GA brought me a moon cake after the mid-autumn festival.

It was pre-packaged, and I didn't much care for it.

:(

Jeri said...

They are very pretty! But they look dense as a rock. How do they taste?

MWT said...

Jeri: I'd say the denseness is about the same as a good, chewy cookie.

I'm not sure I can describe the taste of lotus seed paste ... like caramel without the caramelizing maybe. Sweet, but in the bean-sweet way, not the refined sugar way. Which won't help you if you've never had sweet bean paste either (called "doe sah" in Mandarin), though that's a lot easier to find, as it's a pretty common pastry/dumpling filling (and they also make mooncakes filled with them).

Michelle: I can't imagine how it would even work as a prepackaged item...

Random Michelle K said...

Well, it was in cellophane. And I didn't much care for it. That's the extent of what I can tell you. :)

I don't remember Xiaorong or Bao zhen ever bringing in mooncakes, although they did bring in lots of other things for us to eat.

The mooncake Yi-An brought me was the wrong kind of sweet for me. Of course I also didn't care for lychee when I had them either.

But almond cookies I *do* like.

MWT said...

You might just not like bean-paste-type sweet then. It's definitely different from refined sugar.

I don't like lychees either.

The only almond cookies I've had were the prepackaged kind, and as far as I could tell they were not that different from many other kinds of cookies. We sold them in the restaurant for 25 cents each.

John the Scientist said...

There's a vaguely peanutty taste in lotus seed as well, especially in the unprocessed seeds you see as white lumps mixed into the filling.