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Chinese Recipes
Mooncakes or Yuuet Beurng
Mooncakes are a traditional Chinese delicacy which are generally only available once a year during Mid-autumn Festival or Zhongqiu Jie. This celebration is a lunar cycle, and in many ways very similar to the Western Easter.
Mid-Autumn Festival occurs on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. Please see our page Mid-autumn Festival for more details.

In UK people always give Easter Eggs to family and friends, and the giving of Mooncakes is similar in China, but more widespread and extends to important friends and business associates in particular. Face is acquired by giving brands regarded generally as being 'the best', or by offering specialties. If you are honest, then Easter Eggs are not dissimilar?

A standard supermarket price would be Y15 RMB each when sold separately, with boxes containing 4 from Y70 RMB upwards. Often the most prestigious are sold by notable quality hotels, and people will travel several hours on a bus to reach the best outlet - often in another city. Most presentation boxes will leave you change from Y100, but some are a lot more expensive!

Mooncakes are generally square although some are round. They are normally 2.5 inches square by 1.5 inches high, and are customarily cut into four sections, which are divided between those present. When serving, cut with the sharpest knife you have, and re-assemble so they look whole. Family will often divide one mooncake into a dozen small pieces, especially if they are a selection box offering different fillings.

Most are sold in lavish boxes as pictured, each containing at least 4 mooncakes, eating implements, and sometimes other treats. I once received a box containing 10 assorted ones! However, they are also available individually or in smaller and obviously cheaper packaging.

Whilst the exterior of all may look remarkably similar, what is inside varies tremendously! Most have a filling of fruit jelly or a nut mixture. Many have an egg in the centre to signify Change or the Woman of the Moon. Some have meat inside, and others contain - I have no idea? I seem to remember that occasionally the best are basted with dripping, so check with a friend if you have dietary foibles.

The majority of Chinese people love giving these boxes as lavish presents, whilst very few actually enjoy eating the contents.

The best ones echo the taste of genuine British Bakewell Tarts - these are the original ones bought from only a couple of small family bakers in the Derbyshire village of Bakewell - not the mass produced alternatives.

The egg yoke in the centre is very edible, usually sweetened and often gelatinised or processed in some way? The slice pictured right is filled with a melon or gourd base that is gelatinised and has the slight taste of almonds. Our comparison with 'real' Bakewell tarts is quite appropriate in this respect.

Mid-autumn Festival usually coincides with Chinese National Golden Week Holidays, which begin each year on 1st October. When like this year (2010) the two are a week apart it can lead to some confusion regards public holidays and time off work, especially for foreign businessmen.
Image: Typical Mooncake - Click to Enlarge

Image: Mooncake presentation box - Click to Enlarge

Image: Mooncake presentation box opened - Click to Enlarge

Image: Mooncake 3-pack - Click to Enlarge

Image: Typical Mooncake Quarter with egg - Click to Enlarge
If you receive a giftbox of Mooncakes then know you are being both honoured and included in Chinese tradition. There is no requirement for foreigners to return a similar gift to the giver, but it would be wise to do so. This in turn means that you, your PA, wife or close friends needs to be aware of your social circle, and of what to expect - often PA's will exchange notes behind the scenes so no embarrassment can be inferred.

Brief Information
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the few most important holidays in the Chinese calendar and dates back over 3, 500 years. Farmers celebrate the official end of summer harvest on this date. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, eat moon cakes and Chinese grapefruit under the moon together. Accompanying the celebration are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:
* Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns
* Burning incense in reverence to deities such as Chang'e (Chinese: 嫦娥; pinyin: Cháng'é) - 'The woman in the Moon'.

Related Pages:
* Mid-autumn Festival
* Chang-e (Chang'e), The Lady of the Moon
* Mooncakes - this page
This information is as supplied by ourselves, and ably supported by our friends and various internet portals.
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