by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac
Living my life in New York City and being an acupuncturist, I was introduced to The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival, as a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese and Vietnamese people. The celebration became popular during the early Tang Dynasty. A written collection of rituals of the Western Zhou Dynasty describes this festival from 3,000 years ago. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar, close to the Autumnal equinox. The “Moon Festival” is celebrated yearly and is a time to share stories, read and write poetry and eat moon cakes.
These are round cakes made of flour, brown sugar and stuffed with sweets. Depending on the location, different kinds of filling were used. The north would use white sugar paste and brown date paste, where in the south they would use ham, dates or preserved apricots, walnuts, lard or watermelon seeds.
Moon Cake Recipe
This recipe for Mooncakes comes from Shanghai. Originally made in moon cake molds with imprints such as chrysanthemum pattern or other traditional Chinese characters. They should be about three inches in diameter. Before baking – invent and draw your own “traditional patterns”.
4 cups flour
4 tbsp. brown sugar
half tsp. salt
1 tsp. sesame oil
For the filling:
2 tbsp. peanuts
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. walnuts or pine nuts
2 tbsp. chestnuts, boiled until tender, or blanched almonds
2 tbsp. sultanas or other dried fruit, chopped
2 tbsp. chopped dried apricots
4 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. Margarine
2 tbsp. rice flour or poppy seeds
1. Preheat oven to 400F or 200C – Recipe makes about 15 cakes. Sift the flout, sugar and salt together.
2. Chop the margarine into pieces and rub into the flour until crumbs form.
3. Add enough hot water (about half a cup) to make a pastry dough. Cover with a cloth.
4. Roast the peanuts in a hot pan for two minutes. Add the sesame seeds, then put a lid on to stop them from jumping out of the pan. Roast for a further two minutes. Put the peanuts and seeds in a food processor or blender and grind with the other nuts.
5. Add to the rest of the filling ingredients and mix together.
6. Roll out the pastry on a floured board. Cut rounds with a pastry cutter to fill the mold – if you have one – or make little pie cases. Rub the mold with margarine and spread pastry over the bottom and sides of the mold.
7. Put in a tablespoon of filling. Press down gently. Wet the edges of the pastry and cover with another round to make a lid. Seal together, and remove from the mold if you are using one.
8. Put all the cakes on a greased baking sheet. Beat the eggs and sesame oil together and brush each cake with this mixture. Bake about thirty minutes until the cakes are golden brown.