Today is the Chinese Moon Festival, which is a folk celebration that coincides with the fall harvest. So sometimes it’s known as a harvest festival and families typically put on a feast. But in the United States, most Chinese-Americans know it as “moon cake day.”
One of the signature dish eaten on this day is the moon cake, a pastry-shelled cake with a creamy filling. The cakes are traditionally round in shape to mirror the moon, but over the years people have been redesigning the moon cake, making them in various shapes and colors.
Over the weekend, San Francisco Chinatown put on its annual Moon Festival Street Fair. And this year there were, thankfully, lots of imported moon cakes for sale (I just find the Asian bakeries a bit more creative than in the United States). I even saw one booth selling durian ice cream moon cakes (it’s actually not that fun to eat).
I got a box of traditional moon cakes, but in miniature size since I’m the Single Guy. These cakes, from the famous Kee Wah Bakery in Hong Kong, were square shaped and have an interesting mold design (all moon cakes are made in a mold with intricate designs).
The filling was the traditional (and my favorite) lotus paste, which was creamy and sweet, but not too sweet. Other moon cakes can come in various fillings like black sesame and one that looks almost like a fruitcake. And of course, it’s always special when you have a salted egg in the center, again to represent the moon.
You’re probably wondering what are the pink and green pastries in the photo above. They’re known as “Teochow” moon cakes and are popular in other parts of Asia, such as Singapore and Malaysia. They’re made with a spiraling technique that creates that interesting layered appearance. (My friend Annie in Kuching makes it all look simple on her blog post.)
The box of teochow moon cakes came from a Taiwan bakery called Emperor. The pink colored ones are made from taro and the green ones are, doh, green tea.
Both the taro and green tea were a little too sweet for me, and the pastry wasn’t as flakey as I imagined they would, but that’s probably because they had to be shipped. I’m sure they probably would taste great freshly made.
One thing about moon cakes is that they are not at all light. With the filling and the pastry shell, they pack a lot of calories. So I’m glad I got the miniature ones. Hope you’re enjoying some moon cakes today too!