Moon Cakes Means It’s Fall

Tom Hanchett, September 2009

mooncakesWhat sights make you warm and fuzzy about Fall? Pumpkins lying orange in farmers’ fields?  Halloween costumes on sale at the mall?  If you’re from China or southeast Asia, you’d probably say, “Stacks of moon cake boxes at the grocery store.”

The Moon Festival, also known as Mid-Autum Festival, happens when the moon is fullest each Fall. Technically, it’s the fifteenth day of the eight month in the Chinese lunar calendar.  This year, that means Saturday, October 3.

“It’s one of three big events in the Asian calendar, along with winter’s New Year celebration and summer’s Dragon Boat Festival,” says John Chen of the Carolinas Asian Chamber of Commerce in Charlotte. “It’s more of family get-together time, not a big public celebration.”

Families and friends exchange moon cakes, which usually come in bright red tins.  Each cake has a pastry shell with designs pressed into it.  Inside can be many different fillings, from sweet red bean paste to savory shark fin and sausage.

At Vietnamese-run International Supermarket in Charlotte’s Asian Corner Mall, piles of moon cake tins tempt shoppers near the check-out.  I tried lotus paste, the most common filling, and found it sweet and smooth — a bit like pecan pie without the pecans.

If you want to try some, better hurry.  They’ll soon be gone til Fall rolls around next year.

International Supermarket
Open every day 9am – 8:30pm
4520 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC
(704) 509-1799

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