Thursday, September 11, 2008

Customs from Class

Going to school in the area of "Toronto" (really more Scarborough) that I do means that I share a lot of classes with people recently immigrated from China. It's such a great opportunity for me: I'm a culture junkie (especially with all things Asian) and befriending those around me in my program is a great way for me to learn about what it's like both as a new Canadian and as an Asian in general. Many of them are here on their own, either as students fresh out of highschool or here after leaving their families (and sometimes children) back home in order to upgrade their education. Most of them have very high-level degrees and years of work experience in other fields behind them, and I'm learning a lot about life in general when we talk! Today I noticed one of the girls eating a custard-like dumpling and I asked her what it was, it looked like a sweet version of the steamed buns I had made but the covering was a little different. She told me it was a mooncake that her mom had sent her, and I knew I had to find out something about them!

Turns out that for many Asians around the world, the fifteenth day of the eighth moon (or September 14 this year) is a night of celebration. Marking the abundance of the harvest, the moon festival is full of parades, dancing and eating in many communities. Moon cakes are traditionally given out as gifts to family and friends, and are stuffed with adzuki bean paste. The symbolism is that of luck and good fortune. Apparently, rum-raisin, Oreo, cream cheese, tiramisu, cappuccino, fruit, and Cognac-flavoured fillings are available too.

The stories behind the moon festival are widely varied, from what I can find out, but this website seems to have a good reference point. I also found a mooncake recipe in one of the old garage-sale cookbooks I own, so I figured I'd share it here too! I've added links to some of the "weirder" ingredients, for reference.

Hidden Gold Mooncakes
Serves 30
4 cups cooked glutinous rice flour (kao fun)
2 cups cold water
1 1/3 cups shortening
6 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
10 tbsp sugar
2 cups water
½ cup custard powder
½ dried milk powder
2 eggs
½ cup unsalted butter

  1. Mix icing sugar, water, cocoa powder and shortening well.
  2. Fold in rice flour and mix to a dough.
  3. Divide the dough into 30 portions. Set aside.
  1. Heat water and melt the sugar.
  2. Add desiccated coconut and stir to coat.
  3. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Mix well and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.
  4. Mould the filling into small, equal balls.


  1. Wrap a ball of filling with a portion of pastry.
  2. Roll into a ball and press into a mooncake mould (or a small container).
  3. Knock it out gently and keep in the refrigerator 2 hours or until ready to be served.
  4. They keep well for up to one week.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 359.8
Total Fat: 15.8 g
Cholesterol: 27.8 mg
Sodium: 60.9 mg
Total Carbs: 52.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 2.6 g


  1. Yum!

    I didn't know that you guys were getting a particular influx of Chinese. Any idea why? Are they from Hong Kong, or from mainland China? I'm just curious, is all.

  2. I adore Asian cuisine and love finding new dishes I can eat! I've had moon cakes and they are scrumptious. This looks like a great recipe!

  3. Wow ! What a incredible dish,and I appreciate Asian cuisine a lot. Great recipe

  4. I keep saying that one of these years I'm going to head to our local Chinatown and try to get a moon cake!


Thanks for the feedback!