The Moon Festival
The legend of revolutionary heroes on a full moon night, originating in China, takes on a different meaning here in Bangkok, Thailand during Autumn. September 30th in Bangkok’s Chinatown, is the Moon Festival – so why not try something a little different?
The festival is an exciting time to peruse offerings in a gourmet market or bakery and feel the spirit of the Moon Festival through the powerful colors on display. The culinary creativity that goes into the filling is nothing short of amazing.
There is a mooncake flavor to correspond with every food you can think of… coffee, prune, durian, roasted chestnut, green tea, even flavors that you might consider bizarre like ham, ginseng, peanut butter and even ice cream.
Every year on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is at its maximum brightness for the entire year, the Chinese celebrate “zhong qiu jie.” Children are told the story of the moon fairy living in a crystal palace, who comes out to dance on the moon’s shadowed surface. The legend surrounding the “lady living in the moon” dates back to ancient times, to a day when ten suns appeared at once in the sky. The Emperor ordered a famous archer to shoot down the nine extra suns. Once the task was accomplished, Goddess of Western Heaven rewarded the archer with a pill that would make him immortal. However, his wife found the pill, took it, and was banished to the moon as a result. Legend says that her beauty is greatest on the day of the Moon festival.
Today, Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival with dances, feasting and of course (?) moon gazing. Not to mention mooncakes. While baked goods are a common feature at most Chinese celebrations, mooncakes are inextricably linked with the Moon festival. One type of traditional mooncake is filled with lotus seed paste. Roughly the size of a human palm, these mooncakes are quite filling, meant to be cut diagonally in quarters and passed around. They do seem to carry a rather steep price. A word of caution: the salty yolk in the middle, representing the full moon, is an acquired taste – delicious as it sounds!
More elaborate versions of mooncakes contain four egg yolks (representing the four phases of the moon). Besides lotus seed paste, other traditional fillings include red bean paste and black bean paste. Unfortunately for dieters, mooncakes are rather high in calories.