Saturday, October 3, 2009

Moon Cake Festival(中秋节)

Today is moon cake festival, which is also called lantern festival or mid-autumn festival(中秋节). It is a traditional festival not only for Chinese all over the world, but also Japanese, Korea, and Vietnamese. Chinese of all religion, Buddhists, Christian, Muslim celebrate Mooncake festival. In Malaysia, Mooncake Festival has slowly become a festival for all. The festival fall on every 15th of 8th month of lunar calendar(or Chinese calendar).

Before the festival day, the restaurants in town begin to sell mooncakes. The colorful lanterns are also start to hang outside the shops, ready for buyers. The festival on 15th of 8th month, where the moon suppose to be roundest, compared to other time of the year.

Mid Autumn festival is the 2nd most important festival, after Chinese New Year for Chinese community. It is the time for family members and friends to gather together, watching and admire the full moon(中秋賞月) and eating moon cakes(吃月餅). The children will have their joyful time to parade their lanterns(提燈籠).

The food for mid-autumn festival not only mooncakes, also include pomeloes fruits(柚子), mini yams(小芋頭), water caltrops(菱角), groundnuts, and sipping Chinese tea. The mooncake is round like the moon, it signify family unity.

In Kuantan,Malaysia, the family members will go to the Teluk Cempeda Beach, and light the candles on the sandy beach, some wait until sun rise the next morning.

Mini Yam or taro roots(小芋頭)

Water caltrop or water chestnut(菱角)

Cantonese moon cakes(credited to atlaslin/misbehave,wikipedia/Flickr)

The Moon Cake(月餅)
Moon cake (月餅) is the traditional pastry taken by Chinese during Mid-autumn festival (Zhongqiu Festival,中秋节).

Traditionally, moon cake is made of soft thin pastry with filling of sweeten bean paste. The habit of eating mooncakes started during the Tang Dynasty. Each cake is about the size of our palm and is round to represent the shape of the full moon. The top of the cake is embossed with Chinese characters that signify good omen. Some moon cakes have one or even two salted egg yolk(蛋黃)in the centre to signify the moon. Each box usually consists of four cakes.

Many types of fillings can be found in traditional mooncakes according to the region's culture:

* Lotus seed paste (蓮蓉, lían róng): Considered by some to be the original and most luxurious mooncake filling, lotus paste filling is found in all types of mooncakes. Due to the high price of lotus paste, white kidney bean paste is sometimes used as a filler.
* Sweet bean paste (豆沙, dòu shā): A number of pastes are common fillings found in Chinese desserts. Although red bean paste, made from azuki beans, is the most common worldwide, there are regional and original preferences for bean paste made from Mung bean as well as black bean known throughout history.
* Jujube paste (棗泥, zǎo ní): A sweet paste made from the ripe fruits of the jujube (date) plant. The paste is dark red in colour, a little fruity/smoky in flavour and slightly sour in taste. Depending on the quality of the paste, jujube paste may be confused with red bean paste, which is sometimes used as a filler.
* Five kernel (五仁, wǔ rén): A filling consisting of 5 types of nuts and seeds, coarsely chopped and held together with maltose syrup. Commonly used nuts and seeds include: walnuts, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, peanuts, sesame, or almonds. In addition, the mixture will usually contain candied winter melon, jinhua ham, or pieces of rock sugar as additional flavouring.
* Taro Paste (芋泥, yù ní): A sweet paste made from taro, a tuber grown in many part of tropical Asia. The colour of the paste in the mooncake is purple and is most commonly used in Teochew crusty mooncakes.
* Salt and pepper (椒鹽, jiāoyán): Filling made from roasted black sesame. Commonly found in flaky Suzhou-style mooncakes.

(source: wikipedia)

Some new innovation are:
* Durian: Filling commonly found in South East Asia (mainly Indonesia,Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore) made of mashed durian paste.
* Coconut: This is also common in Malaysia.
* Coffee
* Chocolate
* Dragon fruits
* Green Tea
* Pandan
* Cheese
* Green apple paste
* Fruits and nuts
* Vegetables
* Ham
* Mixed

Pomeloes fruits(柚子)

Types of Mooncakes

There are many regional variants of the mooncake. Types of traditional mooncakes include:

* Cantonese-style moon-cake (廣式月餅): The Cantonese style mooncake is the most commonly seen throughout China and overseas. Originating from Guangdong province, the Cantonese style mooncake has many variations. The ingredients used for the fillings are various: lotus seed paste, melon seed paste, ham, chicken, duck, roast pork, mushrooms, egg yolks, etc. More elaborate versions contain four egg yolks, representing the four phases of the moon. Recent contemporary forms sold in Hong Kong are even made from chocolate, ice-cream or jelly.

* Suzhou-style moon-cake(蘇式月餅):: This style began more than a thousand years ago, and is known for its layers of flaky dough and generous allotment of sugar and lard. Within this regional type, there are more than a dozen variations. It is also smaller than most other regional varieties. Suzhou-style mooncakes feature both sweet and savory types, the latter served hot and usually filled with pork mince.

* Beijing-style moon-cake(京式月餅): This style has two variations. One is called "di qiang," which was influenced by the Suzhou-style mooncake. It has a light foamy dough as opposed to a flaky one. The other variation is called "fan mao" and has a flaky white dough. The two most popular fillings are the mountain hawthorn and wisteria blossom flavor. The Beijing-style mooncake is often meticulously decorated.

* Chaoshan (Teochew)-style moon-cake(潮汕月餅): This is another flaky crust variety, but is larger in size than the Suzhou variety. It is close in diameter to the Cantonese style, but thinner in thickness. A variety of fillings are used, but the aroma of lard after roasting is emphasised.

* Ningbo-style moon-cake(宁波月餅): This style is also inspired by the Suzhou-style. It is prevalent in Zhejiang province and has a compact covering. The fillings are either seaweed or ham; it is also known for its spicy and salty flavour.

* Yunnan-style moon-cake(雲南月餅): Also known as "t'o" to the residents, its distinctive feature is the combination of various flours for the dough and includes rice flour, wheat flour, buckwheat flour, and more. Most of the variations within this style are sweet.

* Muslim moon-cake(清真月餅): It is mooncake with the filling of chicken floss(雞絲). It is halal moon-cake(can be taken by Muslim). Currently most of moon cakes sold in Malaysian hotel are halal,otherwise it will be make known.

(source: some extract from wikipedia)

Piglet Biscuits(豬仔餅) - The dough used for crusts in traditional mooncakes is also baked into fish or piglet shapes (Cantonese: "Jue Zai Bang"; 豬仔餅); which literally means "Piglet Biscuits".

Ice skin mooncakes(冰皮月餅) - Mooncakes with crust make from glutinous rice: A crust with texture similar to that of a mochi. These moon cakes are known as "snowskin mooncakes" or "ice-skin mooncakes" (冰皮 or 冰皮月餅).

Ice cream moon cake - Ice cream parlours have come out with ice cream moon cake

Jelly Mooncakes - health food centre has the fruit jelly moon cake for the health conscious customers.

Miniature mooncakes- Modern bakeries offer miniature moon cakes with low fat and less sugar while the traditional ones still make moon cakes in the shape of lovable animals and those extra large in diameter.

The moon cakes are purchased as a gift for for relatives and friends during the festival. The Pameloes fruit(柚子)is also an important gift to go along with the moon cake because in Cantonese, the name for this auspicious fruit is “yaw(柚)” which has the same vocal speech as “have(有)”.

The packaging of mooncakes become more expensive and classy, but pricing is also on increasing trend. Consumers should fight against over-packaging(過度包裝), Hong Kong consumers & Friends of the Earth (HK) Charity Limited(香港地球之友), has started the movement called "常哦行動" against over-packaging of mooncakes, this will result in more environmental friendly and cost saving. We should boycott the manufacturer who over do it.

The Lantern(燈籠)

The lanterns continued to play an important part in this festival. Children still carry colourful lanterns which are candle-lighted or electrically lighted in various design, traditional animal designs, to the modern design of cartoon or movie characters.

For the creative adults, there will be lantern making competition whereby the most creative and beautiful lantern stands to win a prize. There are also games on the guessing the answer of wording on lanterns(猜燈謎), and some scholars may want to read poems or make poetic songs.

There is one festival activities that we should promoted, that is the planting of trees on mid-autumn festival, which is more meaningful celebration.

The legends

(i)Mid-Autumn Festival commemorates an uprising in China against the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1280–1368) in the 14th century. As group gatherings were banned, it was impossible to make plans for a rebellion. Noting that the Mongols did not eat mooncakes, Liu Bowen (劉伯溫) of Zhejiang Province, advisor to the Chinese rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang(朱元璋), came up with the idea of timing the rebellion to coincide with the Mid-Autumn Festival. He sought permission to distribute thousands of moon cakes to the Chinese residents in the city to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor. Inside each cake, however, was inserted a piece of paper with the message: "Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month" (八月十五殺韃子). On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), under Zhu. Henceforth, the Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated with moon cakes on a national level.

(ii) The story of Chang'e ascension to moon(嫦娥奔月). There are many stories on Chang'e with different versions, but all related to her and the moon. For more details on the different stories,please visit websites,




Happy Mid Autumn Festival! 中秋节快乐!

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