I used to assist my mother to make moon cakes for the annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, but a number of years ago, she ‘hung up her gloves’ and handed me her moon cake molds. I practiced and practiced until I got the technique and recipe down. The long and very detailed recipe is in my cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. It’s arguably one of the more difficult forms of pastry to master, and I skipped it last year due to my busy work schedule, much to my family’s chagrin since they now rely upon me for their supply since my mom retired.
Despite a hectic schedule this year, I went at it again, salting 2 dozen jumbo chicken eggs for 28 days. When the eggs finished their salty soak in our hall closet, it was time to make moon cakes. The kind my family enjoys is filled with a savory sweet filling of toasted nuts, sweet meats (citron and ginger), roasted meats, lime leaf, and rose petal liquor (mei kwei lu chiu/mai que lo). It’s complex cooking and takes up a whole day. Here’s a gallery of a few of the components:
But every time I do it, I remind myself of how I’m preserving a little bit of the past for the future. It’s old-school cooking and most people buy their own moon cakes. But I love my homemade ones as I made them from a recipe brought from Vietnam and tweaked in the United States. I may not be able to convince you to make your own. For posterity and your entertainment, I put together this video. Enjoy and let me know if you savored some moon cake with tea tomorrow night!
Serious Eats: The Best Moon Cakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival (NYC sources) by Gordon Mark and Chichi Wang