For many years I’ve been introducing to new friends and old some of my Chinese heritage by the way of food and culture. One of my favorite is the Chinese Autumn Moon Festival or Harvest Moon Festival. It’s a tradition based on history and tales, but ultimately, it’s about bringing friends and family together to celebrate food and life.
Moon cakes are dense flavorful pastries filled with nut or bean pastes, often with a cured salty duck egg yolk to represent the moon. The moon itself being round is also symbolic of togetherness, unity, one, which in turn represents family. Often moon cakes have beautiful elaborate imprints on the surface, whether it’s the family pastry shops name, it’s a way to indicate where your moon cake came from.
Moon cakes have a density like that of a fruit cake, and the longevity too. Back then these would travel afar to loved ones, so it makes sense that it will last the long journey. I was told of the story that at some point back in time that military messages would sometimes be smuggled within the cakes, to inform troops of war plans, back when messengers had to be used. Pretty interesting.
You can find moon cakes at your local Chinese bakery shops as well as supermarkets such as T & T. Often large hotel will have their own brand as well in Asia, esp. used as gifts to better customers to wish them well wishes for the festivities.
You do need to picky when buying, best to ask for sample tastes. As some are not as traditional in flavour, or less pure in wholesome ingredients and overly greasy. Price here does usually dictate better quality of ingredients.
My favourites are: Lotus seed paste, Chestnut paste, Red Bean Paste, Green/Mung Bean Paste, with single yolk or none. There are even double yolks for double well wishes.
Best had as a afternoon tea snack or after dinner. You slice the cake into wedges 4-6pcs and share one cake. A nice oolong, jasmine or sencha green tea will go nicely with the cakes.
If you like to take it one step further, serve Pomelo, a large citrus fruit related to the grapefruit, but more meatier than juicy. It also represents the moon and unity. It helps to balance out the heaviness of the moon cakes.