Does anyone know which Chinese holiday is coming around the corner in less than a month? That’s right, it’s the Mid-Autumn Festival! This festival, also known as the mooncake festival, is one of four most important and significant holidays in Chinese culture. It is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar, which is around September or early October on the Gregorian calendar we use here. On this day, we look upwards to admire the beauty of the moon and be thankful for all of things we are fortunate enough to have. This holiday has more to it than just gathering with your family and eating delicious mooncakes, there is a rich history that dates back all the way to the Tang dynasty from 618 to 907 A.D. The legend you are about to read, translated from Chinese, is the story that started it all…
A long time ago, ten flaming fireballs were in the sky. Fiery heat killed crops and people were suffocated in the warmth. Hou-Yi heroically scaled the mountain and aimed his arrow at the suns. One after another fell, leaving one to provide enough light and warmth to Earth. People honored him by electing him to be king. Drowned in pride, he occupied his time with drinking and having fun. His wife, Chang-e, begged him to be a better king. But he didn’t listen, busy doing whatever he pleased.
On the 15th day of the eighth month (Chinese calendar), an immortal gave Chang-e two tablets of the elixir of life. Taking one would make them immortal, but taking both would make one fly to the moon. Chang-e felt that a bad king should not live forever, so she swallowed both pills, ascending her into the sky. Hou-Yi was devastated, then strived to be the king she wanted him to be, but knew that no matter what happened, nothing would change. He thought of her everytime he looked at the night sky, staring into the brightness of the moon to see Chang-e. She watched over him from her place happy to see his improvements.
From this story, we have come to honor Chang-e and the moon. In addition to gathering with family to view the moon at its brightest and largest, another popular tradition is to eat mooncakes. Although there are many variations from different places in Asia, the standard and most famous is the Cantonese soft pastry filled with lotus seed paste and salted egg yolk. The roundness of the pastry represents completeness and reunion. Another way to celebrate this custom is by making mooncakes at home with family.
You can try it too! Here is an easy and scrumptious mooncake recipe for you to make with your family!
- Mini mooncake 50g mould from eBay
Ingredients (for 10 mini 50g mooncakes)
- 105g of plain flour
- 55g of Lyle’s golden syrup
- 25g of vegetable oil
- ½ tsp of alkaline water／lye water／potassium carbonate (鹼水) (from local chinese supermarket)
- 300g of lotus seed paste(蓮蓉)
- 1 normal egg yolk (for egg wash)
- 5 salty egg yolk (optional)
- Mix golden syrup with alkaline water and vegetable oil.
- Sift plain flour into the mixture and mix them gently (make sure the dough is not over-knead, otherwise the pastry will crack in the oven).
- Cover the dough with cling film and let it rest for 40 minutes.
- Divide the lotus seed paste into 10 (30g each) and roll each one into balls (optional: put half of the salty egg yolk in the middle of the lotus ball).
- Divide the dough into 10 (20g each) and roll them into balls.
- Pre-heat the oven at 150 degree.
- Place the dough ball in between 2 pieces of cling film and start rolling it with a rolling pin roughy 10cm diameter.
- Place the lotus ball in the middle of the pastry, bring the edges of the dough together to cover the fillings and form a mooncake ball.
- Place the mooncake ball into the mould, turn it around and press it hard against the lined baking tray.
- Bake them in the oven for 10 mins at 150 degrees.
- Then brush the mooncakes with egg wash and bake them for another 10 mins at 130 degree.
- Remove the mooncakes from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.
- Store the mooncakes in an air-tight containerfor a day before consume.