Mooncakes and the Mid-Autumn Festival
In China, schools and businesses are closed today to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise known as Moon Festival. There are many elements similar to US Thanksgiving – visiting family and loved ones, feasting, and celebrating harvests. There are some differences though, like a mythical story of the goddess Chang’e, who floated to the moon and lives there with her pet rabbit. The biggest difference though is the food we eat – instead of pumpkin pie, Asians eat mooncakes on this holiday.
Chang’e is prominent on many of the boxes of mooncakes for sale in China.
Mooncakes are Big Business
Stores all over Shanghai are filled with displays of moon cakes for sale. People buy them to enjoy with family and as gifts for friends and work colleagues. You can purchase the treats at any price range – from a few RMB to several hundred depending on the filling and the packaging.
Mooncakes for All Tastes
Traditional mooncakes come with a wide variety of fillings. Some of the most popular ones are filled with red bean paste, lotus paste, or nuts. This year someone gave us some filled with pork floss, a first for our family. I was hesitant to try one, given the filling has an unusual fuzzy texture, but the savory pork was actually quite tasty, and I would choose them over the more traditional bean-paste filling. These double-egg yolk moon cakes are considered a delicacy, but won’t be a repeat buy at our household.
Western Style Mooncakes
More and more people in China are looking for alternatives to the traditional fillings, and Western companies are filling the gap for those of us with a sweet-tooth. Last year we tried some Godiva “mooncakes.” Starbucks has their own varieties, and Haagen Dazs has a booming mooncake business around Mid-Autumn Festival, with special chilled tents popping up around Shanghai for their ice cream delicacies, among the most expensive you can buy to impress your friends.
Celebrate With Family
Chinese friends tell us that Shanghai families gather together to eat special foods, including white taro and boiled soybeans (edamame). At our house we’ll be sampling a variety of moon cakes with our family dinner. But we decided to supplement with an old American stand-by, chocolate chip cookies.