Sub-Sand is serving egg puff waffles at tomorrow night's Night Market and Autumn Moon Festival, and Oasis Tea Zone is planning to pour bubble milk teas, but moon cakes are likely to be the culinary star of the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area's event.
"Market-goers will be able to sample a variety of traditional mooncakes," Don Blakeney promises.
Fall is the season for sugary cakes, whether served on the street, against the backdrop of a DJ spinning K-Pop, or in a rural cider house. Here, an overview of the three traditional cakes which sweeten September and October.
Primary ingredients: Lard, eggs, flour, sugar syrup
Associated holiday: The Mid-Autumn Festival, an Asian harvest celebration pegged to the arrival of the full moon in the eighth lunar month.
I remember being in Hong Kong one year strolling along the Kowloon side of the harbor among throngs of people out to gaze at the moon. Kids carried colorful cellophane and wood lanterns to imitate the moon, reminding me of when I was a child in Vietnam. Foodwise, at the center of the festival are moon cakes, called banh nuong/banh Trung Thu in Vietnamese and yue bing in Mandarin.
The small cakes have a sweet or savory-sweet filling encased by a very thin sheath of dough...Our family's preferred moon cakes are filled with a finely diced mixture of sweetmeats, roast pork, nuts, sesame seed, and fresh lime leaf. At the center is a single salted egg yolk to evoke the moon. A touch of rose petal sorghum liquor (mei kwei lu chiu) in the filling makes things extra fragrant. Our homemade moon cakes are laborious to make so we savor tiny pieces with sips of fragrant tea or the rose petal liquor. - Andrea Nguyen, author of cookbooks including Asian Tofu
Calorie count: 800 calories per individually-sized cake
Most common flaw: Too sweet, too dense
Obligatory fruitcake comparison: "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." - Benjamin Haas, Los Angeles Times
Primary ingredients: Honey, cinnamon, flour, eggs
Associated holiday: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Whatever else is on your grocery list for Rosh Hashanah, it is almost certain that honey will be at the top of it. The obvious symbolism of a sweet food auguring a sweet new year makes it a natural choice, whether as a dip for apples slices or pieces of the holiday challah...To me, what's most important about honey is its role as the key factor in the richly moist, mysteriously dark and spicy cake that has been a holiday fixture in my family for three generations. - Mimi Sheraton, former New York Times food critic
Calorie count: 400 calories per slice
Most common flaw: Too dry
Obligatory fruitcake comparison: "You have it on the table just because it's supposed to be there, even though nobody really likes it (my apologies to those who do like it; I've never met one of you)." - Yael Miller, Haaretz
Where to find it in Seattle: Hmmm. Fortunately, it's not hard to make at home.
Primary ingredients: Apples, sugar, eggs, nuts
Associated holiday: In Washington, the start of the apple harvest.
The first time Slade met my family in north Louisiana was also our first Christmas together. We stayed at my father's house in Farmerville and were stuck inside due to a severe ice storm. It was a perfect excuse to bake, so my stepmom, Delores, nervously made Slade her apple cake for the first time. Little did she know that he would get up in the middle of the night to eat it and find that future brother-in-law Jason was already there. What makes this cake so irresistible is its chewy and moist texture that lasts for days (and nights.) - Allison Vines-Rushing, from the forthcoming Southern Comfort: A New Take on the Recipes We Grew Up With
Calorie count: 280 calories per slice
Most common flaw: Too mushy
Obligatory fruitcake comparison: N/A
Where to find it in Seattle: Macrina Bakery