The Chinese mid-lunar moon marks the Moon’s birthday and is believed to be the only night of the year once the moon looks perfectly round. At the time of the Moon Festival, particular moon-viewing parties are held with much wine and feasting, and poems composed to the moon. Moon cakes are generally packed in boxes of four cakes and are a traditional gift from one family to another.
The reason moon cakes are so significant goes back to the 14th century when China was overrun by the Mongol invaders who dominated the country in a cruel and oppressive fashion. They added messages at the filling of the moon cakes received during the Moon Festival, conveying secret directions to patriots who may be relied on to join in the battle that ended in war and liberation.
Moon cakes are not easy to make, as particular, elaborately carved wooden mounds have to get employed to shape them. Many Westerners find the filling made from strong lotus seed paste unpalatable, especially with the salted egg yolk at its center. If possible, try to find moon cakes with a filling of maintained melon and melon seeds. For anybody with a sweet tooth this is irresistible, especially when cut into thin wedges and nibbled while drinking clear, fragrant Chinese tea.
It’s the packaging of moon cakes which makes them tempting, typically square gold and red tins with Chinese characters and motifs printed on them, and containing four individually wrapped cakes. For the cook that is booming, the pastry should be quite rich and rather made with at least a percentage of lard.