HK Alphabet :: M

M :: Mooncakes

photo by visualdensity

or Mid-Autumn Festival, which is today and which is also the occasion for eating said mooncakes. Mooncakes are one of those Hong Kong delicacies that we have tried to like, but just can't. They are beautiful, little molded cakes with characters on top for words like harmony, or the name of the bakery that made them or the type of filling inside. The problem is that they are heavy, rich, and typically filled with things like lotus seed paste and a preserved egg yolk (to represent the moon.) The other problem with mooncakes is that they are truly considered a delicacy and are well-loved by Hong Kongers. They also aren't cheap, so if someone serves you one, you really need to choke it down and try to be positive about it. People queue up 12 deep to get these bad boys—bakeries, grocery stores, any stores selling food were all swamped this past weekend with people getting ready for the festivities. It reminded us of going shopping the week before Thanksgiving, and of the lines for pies at King Arthur Flour. (Just now, I'm sitting in a coffeeshop in an office park, and it's 4 pm, normally a quiet hour. Today, though, streams of people are flowing past, headed to the trains, with that happy pre-holiday chatter in the air. Tomorrow is a public holiday, and offices must be closing early. It really feels something like Thanksgiving.)

The Mid-Autumn Festival itself is a delightful holiday, celebrating the harvest moon (though why it's called Mid-Autumn, I don't know. Isn't this the first day of autumn? Not to mention that it still feels like summer, and will for weeks yet … ) Families typically go someplace in the evening to watch the moonrise, light paper lanterns, and eat mooncakes. It's also when the Tai Hang dragon dance takes place, which Finn is eagerly anticipating (dragons and drums and incense, oh my!). 

We've hung our lanterns and Finn made one at playgroup, and we've been gifted with several of the “gweilo” mooncakes which I think we'll have no trouble choking down: the Haagen-Dazs ice cream version (yum), and a slightly more traditional version made from glutinous rice (which may not sound like much of an improvement, but believe me, it is.) Now if only the weather would clear up (so we can see the moon) and cool off (so we can pretend it's actually autumn).  

1 comment:

Lauren Jackson said...

OK, more good memories triggered by your lyrical writing. Thank you. We had our first Vietnamese Midautumn Festival (no day off) which came with Vietnamese mooncakes. They look the same as HK mooncakes and have the same egg yolks, but instead of sweet, smooth lotus seed paste, they have yucky, dense fruitcake-like filling. (like fruitcake without the cake) Ugh. Worse, much worse than Chinese mooncakes. I fondly remember the year Mike's student brought him a fancy box of Haagen Dazs mooncakes, and the crazy blow-up lanterns with electonic Chinese music blaring from them. Trevor had several and played with them for months. (Real candles in Vietnam and floating pieces of fruit rind with candles in them, too. Lovely.)