Moon cake: The sweet gift in autumn

Mid-Autumn Festival is for lunar worship and moon watching, when mooncakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy. These days, walking around Hanoi we can see everywhere a plenty of big street stalls, in red or yellow colour, selling different kinds of mooncakes. Mooncakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival.
Typical mooncakes are round pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 3–4 cm thick. A rich thick filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste is surrounded by a thin (2–3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs. Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by tea. Today, it is customary for businessmen and families to present them to their clients or relatives as presents.

Traditional moon cake

In the past or even now the moon cake (bánh Trung Thu) is always a sweet dream for many kids in Vietnam. Remember, how much we desired to have a moon cake in a pig’s shape together with mid-autumn lantern and small, as toys, colorful exotic animals made from flour.
For certain reason the moon cake has been considered more as a gift, an exchange for business opportunities, for connections rather than a nicely sweet gift to friends, to loved ones or to children.

Mid autumn festival used to be a children’s feast, to celebrate the full moon together with fictional characters from the Moon but now it seems more for the adults to do their business things.
Never forget to give a luxury gift box with 4 flavour cakes to the boss, to the business partners, to teachers of our children or to those people that we’d love to express our appreciation…the only thing the “appreciation” or the “respect” in many cases we should understand between the lines!

Moon cake seems no longer a cake, it’s like a gift that circulates among a circle of people without the end.
Moon cake are so various, different fillings, different shape (square, round, pig’s shape…), baked cake (bánh nướng), snow-skin cake (bánh dẻo), jelly moon cake or ice-cream moon cake.
About the moon cake’s fillings – it could be a big topic because it’s so rich! There is one thing that I just learnt – the syrup in making of the moon cake should be prepared year ago.

Mordern mooncake with more eye-catching look and new kinds of fillings

We have a cake with “ten ingredients” fillings (thập cẩm), starting from Chinese sausage, cashew nut, pumpkin seeds, lotus seeds, water melon seeds, sesame, sweet winter melon, shreds of lime outer skin, pork meat floss or roasted chicken floss or expensive sharp fin…and salted egg york in the center. More simple we have green mung bean fillings, or green tea or lotus seeds paste or coconut with watermelon seeds or taro paste…with or without salted egg York.

Today the moon cake is getting much more expensive, becomes a luxury gift item, the lantern is no longer made from red glass paper, lightened by small candles as in the old days, instead of that, the plastic one, made-in-China, with battery lamp, and the small colorful exotic animals seemed gone forever. Some moon cakes can be covered with gold dust or filled with “the best (ingredients) from the mountain, the best from the sea” as we call “sơn hào hải vị” in Vietnamese.

Moon cake filling is not just in traditional recipe. Some baker simplify its ingredients to just one flavor and choose “modern” ingredients loved by the young such as: chocolate, Japanese matcha, red bean, cheese… The shape of moon cake also varies to more creative ones instead of traditional round such as small fish, bunny and flower. However, regardless the rapid change in shape or taste, moon cake still play role as a special way for Vietnamese people to express their caring for their loved ones in the autumn in general or mid-autum festival in detail.