Zhongqiu kuai le!
19.09.2013 - 19.09.2013 64 °F
Today is Mid-Autumn Festival in China. It's a day to celebrate and eat mooncakes. Mooncakes are not at all like a western "cake." It's a cake in the sense that it's slightly sweet and it's baked. Other than that, it's more like a really thick, dense mincemeat pie. And if you've never had mincemeat before, well...it's like a sweeter, stickier moon cake. I'm not sure what other traditions are associated normally with Zhongqiu, but it's a national holiday and it's a nice time to mark the season.
(That's right, Important Person)
(It may be a bit of mislabeling to say it's intense pleasure, but it is delicious)
Our autumn in Harbin has really be beautiful so far. The weather has been in the 50s at night and the 70s in the daytime. Clear skies, nice breezes, dragon flies. It's a big change from last year when it was HOT and humid until the first school break in mid October. It's the first time since we've moved here over a year ago that I could say the weather was 'good.'
Back to moon cakes. We've been eating more than our share this year, and I've developed a fondness for their dense, crumbly texture and mild flavors. The insides are filled with things like red bean (azuki) or date or coconut and traditionally they have a salted egg yolk in the center (to represent the moon). The outside crust is thin and stamped with the bakery and/or characters for blessings or good wishes. One of our students delivered some mooncakes made by Starbucks. They were semi-traditional but had some chocolate, coffee and lemon fillings. I'm not sure what the other round cakes are called, but they had a similar filling and flavor. The rabbit also represents the moon, so pictures of rabbits are popular on mooncakes or their packages.
Mooncakes have become such a big business that the nicer ones come in really fancy boxes (you can see the extravagant Starbucks box) and can go for $10-$100/box. It's very similar to the idea of the prepackaged Christmas food trays of cheese and salami you can buy at the mall. People buy these for their co-workers and friends as kind of a gift exchange. But they're not really seen much at other times of the year, so stock up now.
BTW, Wikipedia says that one mooncake is about 1000 calories, so be warned.