Happy Chinese Moon Festival!
To honour the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, popularly known as the Moon Festival, I am dedicating a post to the dessert that I do not like, but is significant and traditional to the day: the mooncake. I actually don’t know the history behind the moon festival, but all I know is that during this time of year families will gather together at a Chinese restaurant to have a nice dinner, eat moon cakes and moon each other. Just kidding about the last one! I don’t want to see any bums of my family members…
My Moon Festival dinner happened at Empire Chinese Cuisine, but other popular and fully booked Chinese restaurants in Vancouver BC and the lower mainland will include Kirin, Red Star Seafood, Rainflower, Top Gun as well as many others; and Sun Siu Wah Seafood Restaurant for the “white folk” that want to participate =p In Hong Kong the Moon Festival is a huge celebration and people get a week off. That should be a rule that applies to Richmond as well.
Anyways this post is about the mooncake. The mooncake is a traditional Chinese pastry that is eaten during this time of year. It’s typical to bring boxes of moon cakes over to friends and family as a kind gesture. Mooncakes are made with a thick paste or filling made from traditionally lotus seed paste. They have a thin outer crust that’s almost like a tender pie shell and in the middle of the mooncake is a salted duck egg yolk which resembles the full moon. Mooncakes are delicacies and the egg yolk is highly prized.
Only old-school Chinese people will make them at home, but nowadays almost everyone just buys them. They’re not cheap though because they take a long time to make. There’s hundred’s of versions and varieties of this traditional mooncake, and people are getting so creative that I just had to highlight them as much as I never liked them. Yes, I don’t like them. It might be something I’ll appreciate later in life… when I lose my taste buds. The only ones I like are these frozen ones that taste like ice cream from T&T Supermarket.
Recommendation: Just don’t think of mooncakes as dessert and you might enjoy them more.
On the table:
In the orange box..
- These retail somewhere between $30-40
- One box comes with 4 mooncakes
- This is a traditional authentic mooncake. Traditional ones will always have an imprint of Chinese characters on top. The imprint comes from the mooncake mold they use to make it. I’m not sure what it says – but if you know, please feel free to leave a comment.
- It’s a pretty big cake/pastry and it’s about an inch thick. It’s commonly sliced into wedges and shared with family and friend over a cup of hot tea. It’s a dessert or snack and they’re quite filling so rarely would anyone have a whole one to themselves.
- Pine House Bakery actually does a super good job with the mooncakes. I don’t even like them, but to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I remember them to be… unless they were just that good here.
- There is usually only one egg yolk in the centre of the mooncake, but this one had double egg yolk throughout the cake. I like that because then everyone got a piece of it and the yolks are huge. The salted duck egg yolk is quite often everyone’s favourite part of the mooncake.
- It has a flaky buttery crust and then the inside is made of lotus seed paste. It’s sweet, but not too sweet and with the egg yolk it almost tastes like eating very thick peanut butter cake/pie. It’s very dense and dry, in the sense that it’s hard to swallow without hot tea.
- It really reminds me of a sweet peanut butter in terms of taste and texture, but there’s not nuts in it at all. Eaten with the egg yolk it adds saltiness which makes it more like peanut butter.
- This is actually quite a moist mooncake because some places will have a dry and crumbly egg yolk, this one was made pretty perfectly.
In the gold box…
- The gold box comes with 4 varieties of mooncakes. There are 3 of each variety for a total of 12 mooncakes. The box retails for around $16 at T & T Supermarket.
- These are mini mooncakes and they’re about the size of a small plum.
- They’re definitely contemporary mooncakes and I think they’re new to the “mooncake scene”. With all the pretty colours they were like the Chinese version of Parisian Macarons!
- None of them are all that sweet, especially with the salted egg yolk, older generation Asians don’t like anything that sweet anyways… hence the red bean soups, almond cookies, coconut desserts, and fruit cakes… blah.
- All these mooncakes have a really flaky and tender layered crust, but they taste like nothing. They’re not even sweet, and they don’t really taste like the flavours they should be. Most the flavours came from the fillings. Basically they all looked better than they tasted.
Taro Mooncake – 2/6 (Maybe a 3/6 if you like mooncakes)
- This was made with a flaky taro paste crust, taro paste filling, and a salted egg yolk.
- It wasn’t too sweet and it had an obvious taro taste. It’s super flaky and crumbly, but I didn’t like how dry the egg yolk was.
- I like taro in general, so I’m biased.
- This was made with a flaky crust that has no flavour, green tea paste filling, and a salted egg yolk.
- I was actually excited to try this one because I love matcha flavoured stuff. This one was a no-go, and not only because I don’t like mooncake.
- The green tea paste tastes like green beans to me and it was so chalky and thick almost like chewy gelatin. It was the thickest filling of all the flavours, but at least the egg yolk wasn’t dry.
- This was made with a flaky crust, green bean filling, and a salted egg yolk.
- This one totally grew on me. It was the sweetest and saltiest of all and the filling was the best. It was like super moist cake crumbs rather than pasty filling. It didn’t taste like beans at all. This was the one most suitable for “western” taste buds.
- What was odd was that it tasted like curry. I thought it was curry flavour at first. I swear there’s curry or at least turmeric in it to give it the yellow colour.
- This one was the crumbliest of them all, but most flavourful. Don’t think of it as a dessert or you won’t enjoy this one as much.
- This was made with a flaky crust that has no flavour, red bean paste filling, and a salted egg yolk.
- I’m biased, I don’t like red bean in any form.
- The egg yolk was very dry in this one as well.