October 6, 2006

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival falls on the 15th day of the Chinese eighth month; which happens to be....TODAY! *gets excited* I'm not the type to keep track of Chinese lunar calendar dates...but as the festival creeps up on us, I am constantly reminded by Asian vendors who begin piling up yummy mooncakes for sale.
In Malaysia, the Chinese celebrate the festival with family gatherings, prayers, mooncakes and lantern parades by children. Weeks before the festival, Chinese families present gifts of mooncakes to friends and senior relatives to foster better ties with them.
On the 15th night when the moon is shining its brightest, offerings of mooncakes, deep fried chicken, roasted pork, water calthrops, yam, water melon seeds and Chinese tea are made to deities and ancestors, on the praying altar. Lighted lanterns are also hung conspicuously in front of homes. Prayers are offered with the customary lighting of joss-sticks, red candles and golden joss-paper are burnt. After prayers, there is feasting and merry-making with children carrying lighted lanterns around the neighborhood. Here they are sometimes joined by their non-Chinese friends in celebrating with lanterns. SOURCE
How did mooncakes come about?

Back during the Soong dynasty when the Chinese were oppressed by the Mongols, their rebel leaders sought to overthrow the Mongol overlords. As meetings were banned it was impossible to make plans. Liu Fu Tong of the Anhui Province came up with a plan by requesting permission to distribute cakes to his friends to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor. He made thousands of cakes shaped like the moon and stuffed with sweet fillings. Inside each cake however was placed a piece of paper with the message: ?Rise against the Tartars on the 15th day of the 8th Moon?. Reading the message, the people rose against the Mongols on a local scale. This rebellion enabled Chu Hung Wu, another rebel leader to eventually overthrow the Mongols. In 1368, he established the Ming dynasty and ruled under the name of Emperor Tai Tsu. Henceforth, the Mid Autmn Festival was celebrated with mooncakes on a national level.
Mooncakes are traditionally shaped with a wooden mold filled with intricate carvings to create extravagant Chinese designs. I didn't have fancy mooncake equipment to toy around with and decided my fingers will have to do. I used a combination of oil and water-based dough to create flakey layers of golden pastry.In China, the Mid Autumn festival is celebrated to signify the end of the annual harvest season. For our tiny community of Malaysian students, mooncake festival is just another reason to gather, eat mooncakes, host parties and an excuse to make paper "latterns".

Use ready made lotus paste/red bean paste (available in tins/plastic containers at Asian grocery stores)
Yellow dough : 1/2 cup flour + 3 tbsp melted butter

White: 1 cup flour + 3 tbsp butter+ 5 tbsp water+ pinch of salt

Mix dough ingredients in 2 separate bowls and form 10 portions of tiny balls with each.
Flatten white dough lightly with your palm. Wrap yellow dough ball in white disc. FLatten with a rolling pin into a thin disc. Roll up the disc from bottom edge to form a cigar. Flip it 90 degrees and flatten again. Roll the long cylinder from the bottom up again to form a compact spiral on the sides. Stand the cyclinder up and flatten into a circular disc (4 inches in diameter). Spoon bean mixture into the center and pinch corners of dough to seal. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes in the middle rack.There are countless designs you could come up with. I didn't put much effort into these but possible variations are endless! Dig up your collection of cookie cutters..blades, pattern presses, etc. and you're in business! I made several bunny rabbits just for fun *shrug* I'm a child! *grin*

5 comments:

QuaVadis said...

Interesting and yummy...am a pure lotus paste lover myself and usually that's the one that I will gobble up myself.

So..are you going around your housing area later on and carrying lanterns :P

Brilynn said...

Those are adorable! I'm a big dan of the red bean.

Precious Moments said...

creative!!!

jill said...

It was my first time celebrating the festival albeit less traditionally in Melbourne. We cam whored with colourful paper lanterns, shared pure lotus mooncakes around, and tried explaining to the non-Malaysians about what our excitement with lanterns and mooncakes were about.

I want to bake again!

Su-Yin said...

quavadis: lol nah..we didnt do that...we went over to a friends place for a party..they ahd candles..lanterns.,..and lots an lots of mooncake! It was GREAT!

brilynn: Lol thanks! I'm more of a lotus paste fan..but yea...I was just lazy :P *laughs*

precious moments: Aww thanks :) LOL havnt heard from u in awhile...glad you still pop by once in awhile.

jill: lol sounds fun! Im glad us students are making an effort to keep with traditions back home :)