Ah, moon cakes. The snack that weighs a few ounces and feels like a few kilograms once you eat it. Moon cakes are a very old tradition with a number of origin stories, depending on what you want to believe. Either way, they always come out around Moon Festival (aka Mid-Autumn Festival) and are given as gifts to family, neighbours, teachers, coworkers – pretty much anyone you care to give them too. Last year and this year, we got so many that we just started giving them away to students – better they eat one each than we eat a dozen each.
Moon cakes start out as a flaky pastry which is then stuffed with a variety of fillings – red beans, pineapple filling, green beans, taro, black sesame, or sometimes meat. Often, there’s a cooked egg yolk inside as well, which isn’t as gross as it may sound – the saltiness of the yolk and the sweetness of the other flavour can be quite nice. Making the moon cakes can be quite complex – Christine learned how this year and said it took quite some time and four index cards of instructions – and that was just for the pastry!
People often spend hundreds or even thousands of NT dollars buying moon cakes to give away – it’s another way to show off prosperity and accumulate good karma around an important festival. All stores have them for sale and bakeries especially go nuts trying to sell as many as possible – I think this is their biggest single product of the year. I enjoy a couple, but I tend to get so many that it just goes overboard. They are very fattening and so rich that after a while, they just get hard to stomach (at least, for me). Too bad there isn’t a moon cake recycling fund – at least ours (the ones the students don’t eat) go into food recycling. I hate to think of how many of these are thrown out each year.