About Moon Cakes

About Moon Cakes

The eighth Chinese mid-lunar moon marks the Moon's birthday and is believed to be the only night of the year when the moon appears perfectly round. At the time of the Moon Festival, special moon-viewing parties are held with much wine and feasting, and poems composed to the moon. Moon cakes are generally packaged in boxes of four cakes and are a traditional gift from one family to another.

The reason why moon cakes are so meaningful goes back to the 14th century when China was overrun by the Mongol invaders who ruled the country in a cruel and oppressive fashion. The women of the households devised a clever way to organize an uprising. They inserted messages in the filling of the moon cakes given and received during the Moon Festival, conveying secret instructions to patriots who could be depended on to join in the struggle that ended in war and liberation.

Moon cakes are not easy to make, as special, elaborately carved wooden mounds have to be used to shape them. Most Westerners find the filling made from solid lotus seed paste unpalatable, especially with the salted egg yolk in its center. If possible, try to find moon cakes with a filling of preserved melon and melon seeds. For anyone with a sweet tooth this is irresistible, especially when cut into thin wedges and nibbled while drinking clear, fragrant Chinese tea.

It is the packaging of moon cakes that makes them tempting, usually square red and gold tins with Chinese characters and motifs printed on them, and containing four individually wrapped cakes. For the determined cook, the pastry should be very rich and preferably made with at least a proportion of lard. Some popular fillings are candied fruits or sweetened lotus seed paste.

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