Later this week, millions of ethnically Chinese people will celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival by getting together and having large family meals. Fast forward to the following week, millions upon millions of gifted "moon cakes" will be rotting away in the trash. Even the ridiculously cute and ornate ones.
Traditionally the Mid-Autumn Festival, a harvest-worship and moon-worship festival, meant terrible congestion in Beijing. This is because everyone is trying to deliver boxes of "moon cakes" to show their respect and express their good wishes to their friends, families and work relations. The roundness of the cakes represents completeness and unity.
Over the years, "moon cakes" have become the epitome of the Mid-Autumn Festival. In Chinatowns all over the world, Chinese bakeries will start to dole out tins and special boxes of these round pastries. Just walk into a Taipan Bakery in New York City's Chinatown or Flushing and you can see piles of these cakes.
These moon cakes can either be bought or hand made. Once upon a time I even used to help my granny make moon cakes.
Despite the touching feel-good meaning of the cakes, they aren't very delicious. Effectively they're a thin pastry/crust that envelops a paste type filling. These fillings include everything from sweet to savoury with fillings often made up of red bean paste. Sometimes these fillings also include salted egg yolk... Yes, an egg yolk.
Moon cakes, of course, aren't everyone's cup of tea. They definitely aren't mine. However, like all things in China, moon cakes have also become a form of artistic medium with people creating cool and cute designs with them. Finnish mobile gaming company Rovio has even come out with their own Angry Birds-themed moon cakes!