Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) is comparable to Thanksgiving.  On this day, we pay thanks to the Gods for the harvest.  It is one of the 3 most important Chinese holidays including Lunar New Year and the Winter Solstice.  Chinese holidays, like most traditional holidays, is a time to gather around with family.  Traditionally, paper lanterns are lit and the family partakes in the eating of Mooncakes (月餅) together.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar with each month representing one cycle of the moon.  The moon is said to be the fullest and roundest on this day. Mooncakes these days are not limited to just the traditional variety (as pictured above) and there are new and innovative ones filling the shelves of Asian grocers.  Häagen-Dazs even has ice cream mooncakes (pictured below).   The traditional mooncake is made with a chewy crust and is found on most Cantonese-style mooncakes, which are the variety that we see most in North America. It is made using a mixture of thick sugar syrup, lye water/sodium carbonate, flour and oil. [1]  I use the word “chewy” sparingly as the texture of the exterior is quite tender.  

Other crusts include flaky (popular in Suzhou and Taiwan) and is similar to puff pastry, and tender, resembling a shortcrust pastry that is also used in various Chinese pastries such as the egg tart.

Traditional fillings include: lotus seed paste (said to be the original filling, and the richest), sweet bean (adzuki/red beans, mung/green beans),  Jujube (dates) or 5 kernel (my least favourite, which is comprised of a mixture of nuts and seeds).  You also have your pick of plain, 1 yolk, 2 yolk or 4 yolk mooncakes.  Talk about cholestrol?  Not to mention insane amounts of sugar and calories.  I can only ever tolerate 1/4 of a traditional mooncake, and a hot beverage such as tea or coffee are a must when consuming these babies!My family is pretty old-school erm… I mean traditional, so I never got to experience anything other than the traditional crust and fillings in a mooncake.  However, my university education has gotten me a full-time job which leads to disposable income which means – I can try whatever I want without having to kick and scream and beg.  Cue Hong Kong’s Saint Honore  Snowy Mooncakes.  These are made with a “snowskin” (冰皮) crust.  The reason they are called “snowskin” is because the skin is made of a mixture not too dissimilar to mochi.    I tried the following fillings: blueberry, green tea & red bean, pineapple and grapefruit. While I prefered the “snowskin” crust I didn’t care so much for the contemporary fillings as I found them to taste very powdery compared to the traditional smooth, lotus seed paste. I guess some things are better the good old-fashioned way! I actually kind of miss getting the “animal-shaped” traditional chewy crust, lotus seed paste mooncakes.  I remember I got a goldfish one year, and then a pig the next… I wonder if they can make a cat for me?  That would be perfect!  Happy Mid-Autumn Festival everyone!  中秋節快樂!