October 4, 2006

Mooncake Frenzy

Haagen Dazs Moon Cakes It is very festive being in Beijing with the upcoming Mid Autumn Holiday – the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, aka August Moon Festival. I have never seen more mooncakes on sale in my life. They are everywhere, and people are bustling to and fro carry multiple bags of them as they head off to visit relatives and lavish these mooncakes onto their bosses and friends. The China Daily newspaper reports that the Chinese ate 200,000 tons of mooncakes last year.

The mooncakes I’m familiar with have lotus bean paste, and if you spring for the “good” ones, have several preserved egg yolks inside. I like them, but they are really rich, and really sweet – once a year is enough. Since it is obligatory to have and to give mooncakes during the holiday (think Christmas fruitcake), everyone and their brother is in on the cash cow.

There are mooncakes with extensive packaging, and new styles for every taste. One store is offerering moon cakes packaged in boxes shaped like the return cabin of the Chinese spaceship, with two mooncakes inside. They range in size from as small as a beer cap to a meter in diameter, with an amazing variety of fillings – among the crazier ones are cheese, rose, black plum, dried scallop, cranberry, and Peking duck. Asparagus mooncake, anyone?

Of course, the western chains in Beijing are also in for some action. Starbucks offers coffee flavored mooncakes, while Haagen Dazs offers several varieties of chocolate covered ice cream filled ones. Since Haagen Dazs was out, and I was determined to try some, we found some at a TCBY. Very cleverly presented, the box of 4 had several flavors of yogurt wrapped in a thin chewy dough. They even simulated the traditional preserved egg yolk in the middle with a little ball of orange sherbert.

So, sadly, I am not in Boston with my family on the holiday of family reunions, but I am taking in and filling in my knowledge of Chinese holidays and customs. I am looking forward to the 80-90% reduction in price after the holiday to try more of these goodies – sort of like my hanging around the Lindt store the day after Easter. Now, off to find some chocolate moon cakes…

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