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I’m a little early to get mooncakes for the Autumn Moon Festival (apparently falling on 14 September this year) but I’m happy I didn’t miss them entirely like I usually do. My family never celebrated this festival, which is why I always forget when mooncakes are ‘in season’.
I remember dad giving me a mooncake when I was in my early teens and being stunned by these wonderful morsels, and loving the whimsical name. Mooncakes are sweet and slightly salty at the same time, velvety smooth and meltingly delicious. They’re about the size of a fist, but you only eat a little bit at a time (about a quarter), as they are incredibly rich – and not cheap! They can be made with all sorts of fillings, but most common are lotus seed paste or red bean paste. Sometimes they have whole egg yolks in the middle to symbolise the full moon.
You’re supposed to have them at celebrations with family and friends (much like celebrating Chinese New Year), but I don’t see why you shouldn’t have them just because. A lot of Chinese traditions have a vague memory or sense of recognition for me, but I don’t really know what they’re really all about. Hooray for the internet…
The story I like most about this festival is the legend about the Chinese people organising an uprising against the Mongols in the 14th century by hiding messages inside their mooncakes. Subversive desserts!
I went into the Asian grocery at Maroubra Junction today and saw a table full of red tins and boxes that just triggered a childish delight in me. Some were as expensive as $11 a cake, but I went for a cheaper brand. Even so, as you can see, the packaging is lavish and pretty (and just a bit kitschy!). I just had a taste of one filled with red bean and an egg yolk, and it didn’t disappoint.