Mooncake now and then

Published:  10:00 Thursday - September 19, 2013 The Mid-Autumn festival is for lunar worship and moon watching, when mooncakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy. Mooncakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the four most important Vietnamese festivals.

When the Mid-Autumn Festival came, our mothers bought us one bánh nướng (the baked mooncake) and one bánh dẻo (the snowy glutinous cake). They were saved on the 15th night of the eighth lunar month when the moon was roundest and brightest. Her whole family consumed the cakes, piece by piece, over the course of the following week

Moon cakes were sold in the past

Out of our perpetual desire for this annual treat, we sought out a mundane biscuit and pretended to divide up our imagined treat. Our unpracticed knife slipped on the harder cookie and cut deep.

Now a mother herself who can buy her children as many mooncakes as they like—considers her resulting scar, I am reminded of my childish wish to eat a whole mooncake by herself.

The smell and sight of mooncakes conjures the sounds and excitement of the special annual holiday in the minds of Vietnamese children. From Mid-Autumn Festival to Mid-Autumn Festival, anticipation only builds.

Modern,mooncakes are much more affordable and widely available. One month prior to the Mid-Autumn Festival, red stores pop up at every street corner displaying a diverse array of options. Their fancy packaging is specifically designed to serve as luxurious gifts.

New fillings are invented every year to satisfy consumer tastes. Mooncakes with shark fin or swallow’s nest are no longer unusual, but the most popular remain the traditional tastes of green bean paste, lotus seeds, and salted pork.

As more and more businesses enter the mooncake market, competition gets fiercer every year. Bakeries, restaurants, hotels, and even seasonal private enterprises are now mooncake producers. The choices are endless.

Moon cakes are sold everywhere before Mid-Autumn festival a month

Food hygiene concerns and waves of advertising have turned consumers away from home-made mooncakes in favour of factory-produced varieties. Household businesses that might have made and sold mooncakes for generations cannot compete with the resources and manpower of major companies. Preservatives are a factor too, with many unwilling to risk the unpredictable humidity ruining their gifts.

But the old-fashioned, traditional homemade businesses have mounted resurgence. Some family businesses have won hearts by remaining free of preservatives and selling fresher and safer mooncakes. Mothers equipping themselves with electric ovens and convenient baking tools are starting to make mooncakes themselves.
I managed to teach myself following internet recipes and spent a Sunday afternoon with my friends making mooncakes. Many things might have changed, my own passion for mooncakes have never faded and I still intent on soft and sweet mooncake memories that I still treasure.

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