The harvest moon will light up the sky Monday night, signaling the Asian mid-Autumn festival, known in Chinese as Zhongqiu Jie (中秋節). For weeks leading up to the holiday families and friends have given these cakes as gifts to friends and relatives.
But the LA Times reports from Beijing that the moon cake is like the Asian version of the fruitcake: The holiday specialty that almost noone really likes.
Back in the era of scarcity, they were a rare calorie-rich treat to fill the chronically hungry belly. Nowadays, the mooncake has become the Christmas fruitcake of China, passed around and regifted ad infinitum.
A typical 6.3-ounce mooncake has about 800 calories. By contrast, a McDonald's hot fudge sundae, which weighs the same, has only 330 calories.Last year, health officials in Taiwan warned the public to lay off the mooncakes and instead indulge in fruits and vegetables. But mooncake-haters notwithstanding, nutritionists and dietitians in Beijing doubt that health warnings will dissuade people from eating them.
The traditionally lard-based pastry can be filled with anything from red bean to lotus paste to green tea. But, the quality of the moon cake traditially depends on the egg yolk found in the middle of the cake. It represents the harvest moon, which is believed to be the roundest and brightest on Zhongqiu Jie.
A wide selection of moon cakes are available at the Taiwanese-style bakery Kiki Bakery (21 E. Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91805) and Cantonese style Mooncakes at MoMo Bakery (640 Valley Blvd, Suite#B, Alhambra CA 91083).
Jim Thurman also reviews for LA Weekly some other area bakeries:
I Fu Tang Bakery has minis for $2.50 apiece, featuring fillings of green tea, smashed date (jujube), mashed bean, pineapple or five elements. Five Elements is another common mooncake filling, consisting of a paste combining five different nuts and seeds…
Tak Shing Hong/T.S. Emporium, with two locations in Monterey Park and one in Rowland Heights, is the place to go to find imported boxes…
I Fu Tang Bakery: 1611 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 288-8007.17861 A Colima Rd., City of Industry, (626) 581-0888.