It’s moon cake season! What is a moon cake you ask? They are small usually round sweet cakes traditionally filled with either lotus seed paste, red bean paste, mung bean paste, and/or an egg yolk.
Moon cakes are only eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival – a huge celebration in China (made a public holiday), Hong Kong, Vietnam and other Asian countries. This has been celebrated since about 618 BC to give thanks to the Moon God for bountiful harvests. There is a nice folk story associated with it here. Celebrated on the 15th day of the 8thmonth on the lunar calendar – hence the date changes each year on the Gregorian calendar. This year, the festival commences on 19 September 2013.
During one of my visits to Asian grocery store, Asian Provisions, in Phillip to buy some fresh rice noodles, the first thing that caught my eye were the new colourful boxes filled with moon cakes! Growing up in a traditional Asian household, mum would always go out and purchase moon cakes. Her favourite (my least favourite) and the most expensive are the egg yolk moon cakes. Imagine a whole egg yolk sitting in the centre of the moon cake. It’s not mixed into the overall cake. I would always pick out the egg yolk part to throw away, before being slapped by one of my parents for wasting good food. I then learnt to pick it out and put it on a plate for my parents to eat. To this day, they still can’t figure out why I dislike it so much. I love eggs for breakfast, but there’s something about having a whole egg yolk in a sweet dessert that my brain can’t handle. But I digress.
Since leaving the family home and moving to Canberra nearly 6 years ago, I’ve tried to maintain some of the customs I grew up with. Moon cakes are quite rich, so although I can usually demolish a normal piece of cake (or 2), I can only handle a few slivers of moon cake a day. (They last up to a week). My excitement at these new moon cakes is due to the fact that I’ve NEVER seen coloured moon cakes before. They’ve always come in a tannish-brown colour in the traditional flavours.
Looking at these new ones – there were bright pinks, greens and purple ones! The flavours include Green tea with apricot, Azuki milk, Chestnut, Taro, Chrysanthemum and more. I picked a box filled with 4 different flavours ($29). They also have a smaller box with just 2 cakes in it ($19).
There are other brands in the store. The always friendly staff are happy to assist with any enquiries. He pointed out the different brands of moon cakes. The one from Hong Kong ($50 for a4 pack box) is the most popular and they had already sold out of those that day. The one I purchased is made in Malaysia and the range has only been introduced this year. Hence why I’d never seen it before. As soon as I got home, I took a photo and texted my mum to see if they had the same thing on the West Coast. She’d never seen the new flavours and colours either.
The Green Tea with Apricot was my favourite of the 4. I never knew apricot went so well with green tea. Moon cakes have a soft and smooth consistency throughout, with slightly chunkier bits in the middle if there is egg yolk or something else in the centre.
The Azuki milk was filled with red bean and mung bean paste. I thought this was very similar to the more traditional moon cakes. It was okay but I’m not that fond of it.
The Taro Omochi (purple) was filled with sweet mung bean paste, taro and white mochi (sticky glutinous rice pounded into a sweet paste) in the centre. Really loved this! The mochi in the middle made it extra special.
The last one was called the Fiery Phoenix – made of red bean paste, mochi, melon seed and fish floss. Now fish floss is usually awesome in something savoury, like congee. So I wasn’t very fond of it being in a moon cake. It tasted weird even for me! This was my least favourite of the 4.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!