Mode of Transport: Moon Cake
This coming Monday, September 8, 2014, the Chinese will be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival dates back over 3,000 years ago and you can learn all about its history here – because it’s way too long a history for me to write. I’m just going to write about the fun stuff… the DISH!
Although I’m Filipino, I’m of Chinese descent, so I grew up celebrating this festival, though not very seriously. I vaguely remember this holiday – so I asked my mother and sister what they know and remember about this festival; they both basically said they really know nothing outside of eating the moon cake.
We didn’t grow up too traditionally Chinese, I think because we emigrated to the U.S. 34 years ago. So, I asked my friend Li Xiong, who is from Shanghai, what the tradition means to her and how she celebrated it back home. She tells me that the festival is “equivalent to our Thanksgiving.”
The date of the festival is different every year because it is according to the Lunar calendar. It usually lands in September or October. Li tells me that they get together with their families, mom cooks a gigantic dinner and, at the end of the night, they share moon cake. After all the eating, they go outside and admire and appreciate the moon, which at this time of year is usually full.
I’ve never known that we had to share the mooncake; in my family we eat one each – we have to change that starting this year! After much prodding, my mother finally remembered the game she used to play as a child – basically, they threw dice, and whoever won received the biggest moon cake.
I asked Li if they played any games during this festival and she said no. There are so many Chinese immigrants in other countries in the world that it seems that the Chinese interpreted this holiday a bit differently depending on where they emigrated to.
This week, we ventured out to buy our mooncakes. My mother wanted to buy an imported one from Hong Kong , which is available at Kam Man (a Chinese Grocery/general store on Canal Street). There was so much to choose from, but my mother chose one that had white lotus and two egg yolks inside – the yolk is the best part!
Guess how much a box of four cost? $39.99 – and that is not even the most expensive! Li tells me that some even cost in the hundreds – each! She says that the packaging is what makes it so expensive; some brands package the cakes with real gold.
During the festival, these special boxes are purchased especially as gifts, and after the moon cakes are eaten, the gift recipient usually keeps the special packaging.
For comparison sakes, I bought a box from a bakery called Fay Da on Lafayette St. I went with the mixed blend at $29.95 for four. After trying both, everyone was right, the better one is the one made in Hong Kong.
Festivals like these are one of the many reasons why I appreciate my hometown, NYC, so much. I’ve never been to China, but at any given moment, I can feel like I’ve traveled there. Don’t get me wrong – China is on my bucket list, but until then… I’ve got my Chinatown.
If you’re in NYC this Saturday, September 6, 2014, make sure to stop by Chinatown to get transported to China during the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival, and pick up some mooncake. Visitors can marvel at the tradition, the food and the merriment of China from NYC! Also, at night, check out the moon and think of the Chinese celebrating with family and stand in awe of the same moon.
Give the gift of moon cake. Let’s travel the world, one dish at a time. Will you celebrate the Mid – Autumn Festival with us? Where will you be? Please head on over to the website here and let us know, let’s DISH! If you like this, I would love for you to share!