The Nanfang / Blog


China’s fruitcake: the unwanted, unloved, and frequently repackaged mooncake

Posted: 09/12/2011 2:43 pm

It’s officially Mid-Autumn festival tonight, and everybody has (or should have) the day off today. It could be argued that Mid-Autumn Festival is the second biggest festival on the Chinese calendar behind the Spring Festival. Like wetern holidays (think turkey at Thanksgiving), Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated by eating a specific kind of food: the ubiquitous mooncake.

Surely nearly everyone reading this has tried a mooncake, and probably a small percentage of you actually like them. Which brings me to this article written by Tony Wong in the Toronto Star. Despite his ethnically-Chinese background, Wong says the moon cakes are, well, gross:

I believe we are the only culture that thinks putting a whole preserved salted egg in a pastry filled with lotus seed, red bean paste and a touch of lard could be called a treat.

And so, kudos to us, because if we can create a dessert out of salted duck egg, then it is only a matter of time before China really rules the world. Spaghetti and fireworks were just the start.

I know there are many of you out there who will write me semi-threatening letters saying that you actually like mooncake. And worse, that I’ve betrayed my ethnicity by even considering the notion that mooncakes are not yummy.

Mooncakes are the Chinese equivalent of the fruitcake. People give them as gifts because they’re obligated to, and then wind up eating a thousand calories of red bean paste.

Keeping with the ‘fruitcake’ comparison, the LA Times gives us other reasons to avoid eating the treat than just the taste:

Back in the era of scarcity, they were a rare calorie-rich treat to fill the chronically hungry belly. Nowadays, the mooncake has become the Christmas fruitcake of China, passed around and regifted ad infinitum.

A typical 6.3-ounce mooncake has about 800 calories. By contrast, a McDonald’s hot fudge sundae, which weighs the same, has only 330 calories.

Strangely enough, despite the calorific overload, this correspondent doesn’t particularly mind the mooncake, although the ones with lotus paste or egg custard are the preferred variety. We’d never go out of our way to actually *buy* them, though, unless we were passing them off to colleagues, clients or relatives. Because really, who buys mooncakes for themselves?

Regardless, Mid-Autumn Festival without mooncakes just wouldn’t be the same. So go out tonight, indulge, and enjoy. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!



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