Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Moon Cakes (Banh Tet Trung Thu)

It's Moon Cake time! The Mid-Autumn Festival, Tết Trung Thu, is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar and represents the end of the summer harvest.  In Vietnamese tradition, it recounts a legend where a woman who, after accidentally urinating on a sacred banyan tree, sat amongst the branches until it grew to the moon!  Consequently, her husband was despondent and local children have the duty of lighting lanterns to guide her home when the moon is at its fullest.

People of all ages get down on this holiday and their favorite way to celebrate is to give, receive, and eat a ridiculous amount of banh tet trung thu (Moon Cakes).  I have been given two boxes so far this year and we had four packages given to us last year.

Boxes sold at all of the local bakeries and special temporary kiosks include four cakes and special tea to be sipped while indulging.  These heavy pastries look delightful and inviting, which can be misleading to the inexperienced as they are a savory treat - expect a rich, distinctive fragrance and taste.  Most are filled with mixed meats, eggs and sugar, but there is usually at least one meat-free cake in each box. 

The egg yolk inside represents the all-important moon.  For a predominantly agrarian society like the Vietnamese, the end of the summer harvest is a time to celebrate... and eat cake!

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