Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
The Mid-Autumn Festival (or Trung Thu) is right around the corner, and it is quite a big deal here in Vietnam. One of the most special things about the Festival is its flagship food, the mooncake. You may have noticed large stalls set up around the city on so many street corners and pavements, selling these mooncakes by the dozens
So what exactly is a mooncake?
A mooncake is a pastry product, usually consisting of a thin outer crust of pastry, and an inner filling. No one really knows when the mooncake originated, but it has been intrinsically linked to the Mid-Autumn Festival for a very long time, so much so that it has become a central part of the festival experience.
For a banh deo – bánh dẻo (or sticky mooncake), the outer crust is made using cooked glutinous rice flour, golden syrup, and vanilla. This mixture is actually cooked beforehand, and as such is edible immediately. For a banh nuong – bánh nướng(baked moon cake), the process is quite different. The crust is made from rice flour, golden syrup, and vegetable oil. This pastry layer is then placed over the filling, and baked until it is nice and brown.
Time flies. Fillings of the cake also got changed. Contrary to the crust, which had changed little over time, the fillings have evolved from simple to sophisticated. The basic fillings include lotus seed paste (nhân hạt sen), green bean paste (nhân đậu xanh), or mixed filling made from caramelized pork fat, Chinese sausages, assorted nuts and other ingredients (nhân thập cẩm). Over the years, manufacturers have caught on trends and created increasingly complex flavors. It is not difficult to find flavors such as roast chicken, green tea and blueberry for sale these days.
Some mooncake makers have even gone further and created new versions that differ greatly from a traditional mooncake. Jell-O moon cakes, ice cream moon cakes, mille feuille (thousand layers) moon cakes are just some of the creations found on the market, putting a new twist on an age-old classic.
ENJOYING A MOON CAKE
Mooncakes are generally sweet. Really sweet. So sweet that you will become sick of it after anything more than a few bites. This is because most mooncakes are made without preservatives, and as such has to be balanced with lots of sugar and oil.
So how do you enjoy a moon cake? With some nice tea, of course. Jasmine tea or chamomile tea are the favorites, but any light tea would pair nicely with mooncakes.