Not Over the Moon

Went shopping last minute for mooncakes today. I know, Mooncake Festival is not for another week or so but these sweet pastries aren’t for me. They’re for my parents and Nic’s parents.
It’s this tradition we have where we mail (yes, good old Poslaju) the solidly wrapped mooncakes in their steel tins to our parents – one set to Selangor and the other set to Kuching – each year.
One thing which peeves me is how the prices of these mooncakes keep rising each year. I mean, RM11 – RM16 (sometimes up to RM25) for one small roundish cake which everyone shies away from because of the high sugar content and the egg yolk?
Methinks most of the cost goes towards the advertising, the beautiful wrapping, the assorted shapes of the cans and outer packaging (I think we all fall for the gorgeous packaging) and the brands. Yes, brands are important too when one is buying mooncakes. Some brands sell well because they’re been around long enough and one hears their name bantered about more.
And Chinese love to “sung lei” during festivals like these. “Sung lei” basically means to give gifts to others; it is polite, it is good manners especially if you’re doing business and it is welcomed because it shows you are thinking of them. It’s more often the giving which counts, rather than the gifts. That’s why you will see frenzied mass-buying of gifts/food hampers etc. during Chinese New Year and major Chinese festivals such as Mooncake Festival.
I’m not a big fan of mooncakes. I just partake for the sake of eating something traditional on the 15th day of the 8th month. (Btw, check out Lydia’s blog to find out how this festival came about.) I’d rather be downing pots of Tikuanyin or Pu-erh tea than munch on mooncakes which can be rather ‘jelak-fying” after the third slice. Even though these days the mooncakes are supposedly low sugar and contain less unhealthy stuff (such as egg yolk).
The other problem I have with mooncakes is that I want mooncakes to be authentic. Flavours are getting more “jinjang” and weird… tiramisu mooncake, chocolate mooncake, raspberry cheese mooncake…. the list goes on. I want my lotus paste pure and simple. I want normal mooncakes I can identify with. I want plain red bean paste. I don’t want any newfangled mooncakes with odd names and odder tastes. It just won’t do it for me.
And then, there’s the lanterns. Everyone knows lanterns are a must on Mooncake Festival. I still enjoy the paper or glass paper lanterns from China, where one sticks a birthday candle in it and lights it up. Sure, they burn easily when the wind blows but that’s the FUN part. You walk around the neighbourhood (do kids even do this these days?) and start having a blast when one’s paper lantern (shaped like a fish, or a chicken or whatever) starts getting barbequed… that would be the highlight of the festival! (Psst…this also means one gets new lanterns each year!) Lanterns these days are too lame and tame and so international in flavour! I saw a David Beckham plastic lantern today in the supermarket! Ewww! I also saw lots of Pokemon plastic lanterns.
Two other must-haves on Mooncake Festival is the evil-looking water caltrop and baby yam. You can find these easily in any supermarket these days. Both the water caltrop and baby yam are boiled and eaten. The water caltrop tastes nutty while the baby yam is rich and creamy. These two will reduce the cloying sweetness of the mooncake I believe.

Yes, this is the water caltrop!
Shaped like a miniature bull’s horn, the water caltrop is black and light. It is also called the floating water chestnut, Devil Pod or Bat Nut. According to my aunt, you only get to buy these ‘fruit/vegetable’ at this time of the year, and inevitably, they come from China. Dropped into boiling water, they cook fast and once done, you get to eat its nutty goodness within by breaking it open with a nutcracker or in my case, a pestle (batu lesung) would do. When my aunts were kids, they used to play with the water caltrop, turning them into spinning toys!
I read that the water caltrop should never be eaten raw as they contain toxins. I’ve also read that a porridge made from 10-20 water caltrop boiled with a cup of glutinuous rice and sweetened with some honey is good for invigorating the stomach and nourishing the intestines.

5 thoughts on “Not Over the Moon”

  1. now i know it is called a water caltrop…hehehe. send by pos laju??? wow, as if u live in new york or somthing…but it’s good, “howe soon chai”… but wont the flavors gone by then?

  2. eh keat you would be surprised. these days Poslaju is really Poslaju. the tip is to wrap it really well in layers of paper and cardboard and ensure the mooncakes sit nice and snug inside their metal tins. and of course, register the package too! don’t want the postman to start sampling the mooncakes!

  3. We made our own mooncakes this year and ate one together with the KLT brand mooncake. Guess which one tasted better? I’m going to eat a lengkok this year no matter what.

  4. Gawd! Have to mention that I hate those ultraman, superman, stupidman latterns that makes heckuva noise! Prefer the good ole fashioned latterns that burns up easily too! But my kids just love those noisy ones. So, I stick tissue paper on top of the ‘speakers’ to muffle out the sound.

  5. this strange fruit is not popular in Johor lah… nevertheless, i use this fruit, pomelo, mini yams n mooncakes to offer to the moon goddess so that she’ll bless me with a good wife!


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