Moon cakes are traditionally Chinese pastries generally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival is for lunar worship and moon watching, when moon cakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy. Moon cakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings while watching celebrating the festival.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the three most important festivals of Vietnamese. A long time ago, the festival has turned into Children’s Festival in which children will enjoy pastries and have an enjoyable time with all various colorful lanterns.
Typical mooncakes are round in shape, and measure around 10 cm (4 inches) in diameter and 4-5 cm (2 inches) in thickness. Most moon cakes consist of a thin, tender pastry skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling, and may contain one or more whole salted egg yolks in their center as the symbol of the full moon.
Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges shared by family members. They are generally served with Chinese tea, and very rarely, moon cakes are served steamed or fried.
Moon cakes are the must-eat food for the Mid-Autumn Festival. It was customary for house wives to prepare moon cakes at home when the festival was approaching. However, as the production is labor-intensive and they are widely available in markets, very few people make them at home nowadays.
In Vietnam, moon cakes are known as Banh Trung Thu (literally “Mid-Autumn cake”). Vietnamese moon cakes are usually sold in either individually or in a set of four . There are two kinds of moon cake: “Banh nuong” (baked moon cake) and “Banh deo” (sticky rice moon cake).
“Banh deo” (sticky rice moon cake)
“Banh nuong” (baked moon cake)
It can be said that “Banh nuong” and “Banh deo” are two special kinds of cake in Vietnam. They are widely popular and are sold year-round. Vietnamese Moon cakes are often in the shape of a circle (10 cm in diameter) or a square (a length of about 7–8 cm), and 4–5 cm thick. Larger sizes are not uncommon. Their designs largely resemble that of their Chinese counterpart, though some other images, such as the sow with cub, fish, shrimp, etc. can also be found.
Vietnamese moon cakes have two basic parts: crust and filling. The ingredients usually consist of: jam, dried sausage, mung bean paste, salt, sugar, cooking oil, sugared pig fat, lotus seed, watermelon seed, etc. Compared to other variants, Vietnamese moon cakes’ flavor is more on the sweet side. Thus, to balance it, salted egg yolk is often added. They can be baked or eaten immediately.
“Banh nuong”(Baked moon cake) is made from wheat flour, cooking oil, and simple syrup boiled with malt. After being filled with various combinations of salted egg yolk, dried sausage, mung-bean paste, salt, sugar, cooking oil, sugared pig fat, lotus seed, watermelon seed, it will be brushed with egg wash, then baked in the oven. The egg wash will protect the crust of the cake from drying out and create the aroma of the cake. The cakes have to be rotated constantly in the oven to prevent burning.
“Banh deo”(Sticky rice moon cake) is easier to make than “Banh nuong”. The crust and filling are pre-cooked. The crust is made from roasted glutinous rice flour, pomelo blossom water or vanilla and simple syrup. After malaxating rice flour, fillings similar to that of baked mooncake is stuffed inside the crust and then the cake is put into the mold dust with a thin layer of flour to prevent sticking to fingers. The cake can be used immediately without any further steps. “Banh deo” is not as popular as “Banh nuong”, however.