The Anatomy of a Mooncake

On September 30, Vietnam will celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival or Tết Trung Thu.  Lanterns, dragon dances and delicacies are signs of this festival.  Weeks leading to this lunar harvest festival, makeshift stores suddenly pops up at every street corner selling boxes and boxes of mooncake or bánh trung thu — so many actually that you wonder they’ll sell ’em all at all.

Mooncake is a traditional delicacy offered to family and friends during the festival. Nowadays, even businesses present this to clients which have led to bakeries creating high-end, expensive mooncakes — and I mean REALLY expensive.

Shape and Size

Rectangular and round mooncakes are readily available in the market but more of the round ones appear in Vietnam.  Sizes vary but the usual are found to be about 10 cm in diameter and 4 cm thick.

Crust

The thin crust is golden brown in color with a glossy finish.  To make it more presentable, the crust is beautifully embellished with designs.  You can usually see the Chinese sign for longevity or the Vietnamese lotus flower.  These days, with the numerous variant of mooncakes as well, the code can be seen on the crust as well.

Filling

Now for the tricky part — the filling.  These days, anything that can be turned into a paste can be a filling: green bean, red bean, green tea, lotus seeds, taro, yam, fish, chicken, and yes for the adventurous, durian and even meat.   There just are so many variants available!!!

Core

Eggs are the usually found at the core of the mooncake.  However, according to my nanny, this wasn’t the case before or for the more affordable mooncakes.  Eggs, are expensive so having 1 or 2 eggs in your mooncake tips the price scale to the expensive side.

Packaging

Mooncakes may be sold separately but are also available in boxes of 2 or more.  Individually sealed and boxed in an ornately decorated box is the norm.  The packaging has become somewhat a status symbol.  I honestly couldn’t throw away the boxes long after we’ve finished ‘em all off.

Wondering how much they cost?  Read more about that here.

My favorites are the green tea and green bean with an egg or two — that is IF I can read the label.  Most of the time, it’s in Vietnamese so I need my friend, Google to translate for me.  Because if you can’t read the label, just expect to be surprised!

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9 Responses to The Anatomy of a Mooncake

  1. noelleisme says:

    Thanks for posting about Tết Trung Thu and these info about the Moon Cakes

  2. Pingback: What’s your favorite mooncake flavor? | Hello Saigon!

  3. The mooncake articles are great! I love Viet Nam but am still learning about her.
    Soon to relocate to Sai Gon.

  4. Pingback: Mid-Autumn Festival Dragon Dance | Hello Saigon!

  5. Pingback: Once in a Blue Moon(Cake) | Hello Saigon!

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