First of all, Happy National Day to all our Chinese readers! Not necessarily an “independence day” but this day is regarded by most people in the People’s Republic of China as a day, October 1st, 1949, when the defeated government fled to Taiwan, looting the treasury but closing the door to foreign intrusion in their economics, politics and lives (branded previously as “unequal treaties”) that had been going on since the Opium Wars that started in 1840.
Luckily, we managed to escape the madness in Beijing but watched the marching of the People’s Liberation Army and an address by Hu Jintao from CCTV in the airport on our way to Guangzhou. We were also given our first taste of the traditional Chinese mooncake which form a central part around the Mid-Autumn festival experience and is eaten widely around National Day as well.
Mooncakes were said to be originated by the Ming revolutionaries in their espionage effort to secretly distribute letters in order to overthrow the Mongolian rulers of China in the Yuan dynasty. A hidden message was printed in the surface of mooncakes as a simple puzzle or mosaic. In order to read the encrypted message, each of the 4 mooncakes packaged together were to be cut into 4 parts each. The 16 pieces of mooncake, were then pieced together in such a fashion that the secret messages could be read. The pieces of mooncake are then eaten to destroy the message. Sounds like a great business plan to increase mooncake sales!
We’ve been seeing these little treats everywhere for a month, but never had the courage to try one. Most mooncakes consist of thin cake-like skin filled with a sweet, dense paste (usually lotus seed or sweet bean paste) and a salted egg yolk in its center to symbolize the full moon. How was it? The crust was wonderfully tender, but the filling? Let’s just say that we would probably prefer the tiramisu variety from Starbucks!