As a child, I remember the celebrations of the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the three biggest celebrations of the year. Mid-Autumn Festival embraces the spirit of gratitude and falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar. And of course, it’s celebrated on the night of a full moon.
By: Elizabeth Toy
The Mid-Autumn Festival is all about spending time with loved ones, celebrating the harvest, giving thanks, and prayer.
Legend has it that in ancient times, there were 10 suns which produced heat so strong that made it unbearable for people to live. Hou Yi, a powerful man, had the strength to shoot down 9 of them and so people came from all over to learn from him. One of them was named Peng Meng. Hou Yi went on to marry a beautiful woman, Chang E, and lived happily with her.
One day, when Hou Yi went to visit WangMu, the Queen of Heaven, he was given an elixir that, if drunk, would immediately make him a god and he would ascend to heaven. Instead of taking it, though, he brought it back to his wife. Peng Meng saw that he had given Chang E the elixir. While Hou Yi was out hunting three days later, Peng Meng demanded that Change E give him the elixir. Because she knew she would not win, she drank it right before him, immediately turning herself into a goddess. She ascended to the moon, as it was the closest place to her husband, still on Earth.
Upon finding out what happened, Hou Yi screamed his wife’s name into the sky and was amazed to find her figure in the moon. He then placed her favorite foods on an altar as a sacrifice to her. And ever since, the people who also heard the story likewise, sacrifice foods and pray to the goddess of the moon for peace and luck.
Traditionally, families come together for Mid-Autumn Festival meals that contain dumplings, pumpkin, and taro (in addition to other non-vegan foods). If you ask any Chinese person who knows about the Mid-Autumn Festival, the most distinct element of the Mid-Autumn festival is the mooncake – a sweet and rich pastry with a dense filling, most often made of red bean or lotus seed paste. It’s intricately decorated with a detailed design on top.
Unfortunately, mooncakes also have a terrible reputation in the way of unhealthy ingredients. Traditionally, they contain gluten, refined white sugar, and lard. Oftentimes, they also contain the egg yolk of a salted duck egg.
Fortunately for vegans, there are increasingly more alternative options that won’t hit the waistline quite as hard in calories, cholesterol, and animal ingredients. So regardless of your diet, you won’t have to miss out on this lovely seasonal treat!
While these new, healthier mooncakes are more widely available in Hong Kong and Asian countries, you can also find them in the U.S. in modern Asian pastry shops, containing ice cream, fruit, or chocolate in place of the traditional bean pastes. However, if you aren’t able to find these in Asian bakeries, why not make your own? It may take some time, but that’s really what this celebration is all about.
So grab your family and friends, head to the kitchen, and roll up your sleeves for some leisurely, quality time well-spent to celebrate the harvest and abundance in your lives.
- 350 grams pineapple, cubed
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons erythritol or organic raw cane sugar
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter
- ½ tablespoon coconut oil
- Place the cubed pineapple into a high-speed blender, add cornstarch and erythritol, then blend until smooth.
- Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add vegan butter and coconut oil into the saute pan when the pan is warm. Stir in the pineapple puree. Uncover and cook for approximately 25 minutes over medium-low heat. The volume of the puree should reduce to at least half the starting amount. Use a spatula to stir constantly to keep the pineapple from burning. You should see some oil separate from the pineapple and the pineapple filling should be sticky in the end. The yield of the pineapple filling is around 200 grams.
- Transfer the filling into a heat proof bowl. Refrigerate for 2 hours until it’s chilled. Weigh 18 grams of the pineapple filling for each piece and roll it into a smooth ball. Set aside for assembling the mooncakes.
- Whisk together all the dry ingredients and then add oil and non-dairy milk in a heat-resistant bowl. Stir and mix until smooth, with no clumps in the mixture. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes.
- Fill a steamer pot with 2 cups of water and place the bowl of snow skin batter into the steamer. Cover the steamer and place the steamer on a stove. Bring the water to a boil and then turn down to medium heat or to a gentle boil. Steam for 20 minutes. When the snow skin dough is cooked, the center of the dough should be set with no runny liquid visible.
- Remove the bowl from the steamer and transfer the cooked snow skin dough into another clean glass or ceramic bowl with a spatula. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and cool completely in refrigerator. Approximately 2 hours.
- Wearing disposable kitchen gloves, knead the beet dye into the chilled dough until the dough is pink. Weigh 35 grams of the snow skin dough for each piece.
- Wearing disposable kitchen gloves, use your fingers to shape each piece of snow skin dough into a smooth ball and then create a cavity. Place one piece of the pineapple filling ball in the snow skin cavity and then wrap the edge of the dough around the pineapple filling. Gently pinch the opening of the dough together to close and form a smooth ball again.
- Dust the mooncake mold with sweet rice flour or cornstarch. Gently place the mooncake ball into the mold. Place the bottom of the mold onto a flour dusted flat surface and press the top handle. Slowly lift the mold and push the mooncake out of the mold.
- The mooncakes can be served right away. However, the texture of the snow skin taste best when the mooncakes rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours, but no longer than 2 days.
Looking for more recipes that involve pineapples? Try this Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie!
Do you celebrate an autumn harvest festival? What activities and foods do you enjoy to celebrate? Share with us in the comments!
Featured Photo Source: LightOrangeBean