A mooncake is a Chinese baked good that is traditionally eaten during the Moon Festival (also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival). Just like many other Chinese foods, this one comes with a folk tale. It goes something like this: at one point the world had 10 suns, and the Chinese Emperor requests China’s best archer, Hou Yi, to shoot down 9 of the 10 suns. It is said that the 10 suns caused a massive drought and deadly heat for the people of China. Hou Yi successfully shoots down the 9 suns and his wife is given a pill of immortality that makes her float toward the moon. She resides there as a reminder of what Hou Yi accomplished. During the Moon Festival (late September or early October depending on the lunar calendar), people enjoy mooncakes to continue the tradition of the mooncake.
The mooncake has several different shapes, sizes, and tastes. The Hong Kong-style mooncake, pictured above right, contains 4 egg yolks that represent each of the four phases of the moon. The texture is paste-like and made of lotus seed. A box of four mooncakes in the U.S. are generally sold for a minimum of $40. The pastry is quite an expensive treat and are a major hit despite its high cost. The dessert is a favorite of young children whom celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in conjunction with floating sky lanterns.
The Taiwanese mooncake pictured above left, is most commonly filled with red bean paste, sometimes with mochi filled in the center. Novelty mooncakes are growing increasingly in popularity among the young generation with fillings of green tea, chocolate, ice cream, and even tiramisu. The roundness of the mooncake symbolizes completeness and unity for China and its people. In modern times, during the night of the Mid-Autumn festival families work together to make mooncakes that shows harmony, peace, and togetherness of the members of the family. The Moon Festival is celebrated by Chinese, Taiwanese, Philipinos, and the Vietnamese. In the Vietnamese culture, the mooncake is eaten as well as viewing lion dances and making five-pointed star shaped lanterns. In the Philipines, a game of chance, known as the mooncake dice game, or simply mooncake game, is also played by both Chinese-Filipinos and Filipinos alike. The mooncake has lost some of its original meaning in modern times, but the roots of its creation still remain very much alive.
The variety of foods in Taiwan covers anything that you could think of. The main entrees, supporting appetizers, and mouth-watering desserts encompass all of my eating needs. Why else w0uld I suffer through an 18-hour flight to Taiwan? For the food of course… 🙂