Gentle breezes blow, yellow leaves fall from the trees and dance to the music of the cool wind. Autumn is coming to town and one of the most popular events for both adults and children during the season is Tet trung thu, or the Mid-Autumn Festival. A colourful time, the festival comes but once a year, every year, year after year, and this year falls on Sunday 27 September.
At midnight the moon is at its fullest, showering its bright light on to the earth, with streets turned into playgrounds lit by red lights beaming out from lanterns of all shapes and sizes. Masks, drums, paper flutes and toys are stacked everywhere and children and adults alike jostle each other as they shop. In its partial phases, the moon represents the incompleteness of life and potential for completeness, fullness and prosperity. The festival is therefore a celebration and a prayer for the fullness and completeness of life.
Together with fairytales, plentiful fruit and cheerful dragon dances, moon cakes are a feature of the festival. Some cakes are round and white, called Banh deo (white soft variety), while others are square and golden brown, called Banh nuong (oven baked cake). There is also another type, in the shape of a carp; a fish that traditionally represents the soul of the moon. Moon cakes are unleavened and were originally filled with lotus seeds, orange peel, ground beans, egg and flavourful pork fat. The modern varieties made by chefs at big hotels are usually filled with a range of sweet fillings, from durian, taro, coconut, sour sop, and green tea to chocolate and caramel. These connoisseur couplings are packed in eye-catching boxes and sometimes accompanied by premium tea or spirits and sell at unbelievable prices.
Hanoi Daewoo Hotel's moon cakes
Buying expensive moon cake as gifts has become the fashion among Vietnam’s wealthy.
Moon cake shoppers eagerly hop, skip and jump Olympian-style from one bakery to another seeking the best in town. Market leaders include Nhu Lan, Kinh Do, Brodard and Givral in Ho Chi Minh City and Thu Huong, Hanoi Hotel, Bao Phuong, Ninh Huong, Fortuna Hanoi Hotel and Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel, while recently the JW Marriott, Daewoo and Sofitel Plaza have also joined in.
Following its tradition of offering Chinese-style moon cakes made by the Chef at the May Man Chinese restaurant, Fortuna Hanoi Hotel this year has four authentic flavours - lotus, green tea, taro and red bean. All-time favourites include Lotus seed paste with a single yolk, four happiness-assorted moon cakes and seven enchanting stars. Making their debut this Mid-autumn Festival are Green bean with a single yolk and Pandean with a single yolk, rounding out the luscious collection. Along with classic favourites, the exclusive VIP editions, Prosperous with Red Chilean wine, and the Imperial collection, with Johnnie Walker gold bottle limited edition, are delightful treats for those who prefer a taste of luxury. These Mid-Autumn treasures are priced from VND600,000 and available until 27 September at the hotel.
The Hanoi Daewoo Hotel has introduced four different types of moon cakes this year, ranging from Lotus seed and young sticky rice to Fresh taro and chestnut in Basic, Deluxe, Premium and Luxury packages priced from VND660,000 to VND13,600,000 (for a luxurious box of six moon cakes and 18 year-old Macallan wine) based on the type of package.
The Crystal Jade Palace restaurant at the JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi is celebrating its first Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam by offering exquisite, signature moon cakes. Customers can enjoy six different types, from the mellow touch of green bean paste and the buttery taste of red or white lotus paste with double egg yolk to the richness of almonds and melon kernel seeds in the mixed nuts and ham. Prices start from VND585,000 per box of four (180 grams each) or VND648,000 per box of eight (60 grams each), with various discounts on large quantities.
Amid the fierce competition, moon cakes baked with traditional Vietnamese flavours still outsell their more modern counterparts. Around a month before festival Hanoians begin flocking to several moon cake shops selling those with traditional flavours. For people who want to buy luxurious yet elegant Vietnamese traditional moon cakes as special gifts, the
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi’s moon cakes
Mid-Autumn treasures should be the first choice. They’re a very special ‘traditional mix’, filled with sausage, ham, and marinated pork fat combined with a variety of fruit candy and nuts, each a convergence of heaven and earth and wrapped in grapefruit flower scented dough.
In addition to the Metropole’s traditional varieties such as Traditional Mix and Lotus with Young Rice, there are now five new flavours - Red bean and mango, Caramel with dry fig and candied orange, Black sesame and coconut, Chocolate and cookie crumble, and Green bean and dried apricot, presented in red lacquered wooden boxes. Those for children include Banh deo (white soft variety) in the shape of a sophisticated moon or a carp shape at VND950,000. Its very special moon cakes weigh 250 grams each and are accompanied by a bottle of wine in a luxurious lacquer box, at VND3,680,000. All of these moon cakes are preservative-free and hand-baked by Executive Sous Chef Nguyen Thanh Van and her team from authentic recipes and infused with the Metropole’s gourmet touch.