Mooncake is made and enjoyed in China during the Mid-Autumn Festival, a lunar celebration where people participate in moon-watching. For most, this is a time to gather with friends and family over large meals. Its origins are ancient, stretching back to the 1600's BCE. The festival is intricately linked to myths and legends about the Moon Goddess of Immortality, Chang'e:
"In the ancient past, there was a hero named Hou Yi who was excellent at archery. His wife was Chang'e. One year, the ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to the people. Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light. An immortal admired Yi and sent him the elixir of immortality. Yi did not want to leave Chang'e and be immortal without her, so he let Chang'e keep the elixir. However, Peng Meng, one of his apprentices, knew this secret. So, on the fifteenth of August in the lunar calendar, when Yi went hunting, Peng Meng broke into Yi's house and forced Chang'e to give the elixir to him. Chang'e refused to do so. Instead, she swallowed it and flew into the sky. Since she loved her husband and hoped to live nearby, she chose the moon for her residence. When Yi came back and learned what had happened, he felt
so sad that he displayed the fruits and cakes Chang'e liked in the yard and gave sacrifices to his wife. People soon learned about these activities, and since they also were sympathetic to Chang'e they participated in these sacrifices with Yi." (Wikipedia)
"After the hero Houyi shot down nine of the ten suns, he was pronounced king by the thankful people. However, he soon became a conceited and tyrannical ruler. In order to live long without death, he asked for the elixir from Xiwangmu. But his wife, Chang'e, stole it on the fifteenth of August because she did not want the cruel king to live long and hurt more people. She took the magic potion to prevent her husband from becoming immortal. Houyi was so angry when discovered that Chang'e took the elixir, he shot at his wife as she flew toward the moon, though he missed. Chang'e fled to the moon and became the spirit of the moon. Houyi died soon because he was overcome with great anger. Thereafter, people offer a sacrifice to Chang'e on every lunar fifteenth of August to commemorate Chang'e's action." (Wikipedia)
Mooncake is a key part of the festival. During our visit to Shanghai in the autumn months, whole bakeries converted nearly all their offerings to mooncake and lines of customers stretched out the door. China's strong cultural influence has spread this tasty treat throughout Asia.
A thin, soft pastry surrounds the thick and smooth filling. Typically this sweet filling is made from either red bean or lotus seed paste, but there are other fillings (including savoury ones). Cakes often contain a yolk from a salted duck egg to symbolize the full moon.
The lovely family that runs Seasoned Fusion in Saskatoon gifted us with a big, delicious mooncake. They looked extra long and hard for a bakery that made them with two yolks in each cake. Taking their instructions, we warmed it very gently in the microwave and enjoyed it with a strong tea.
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