Mid-Autumn Festival

Word of the Week: yuè bǐng


A large part of traditional Chinese festivals seems to be eating a particular dish or snack. Since this week is the mid-autumn festival (zhōng qiū jié) we thought it would be a good idea to look at some tasty mooncakes (yuè bǐng 月饼)

The mid-autumn festival originates from China but is also celebrated in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. It is celebrated during the full moon that occurs on 15th day of the 8th month of the luna calendar. (usually mid to late september)

egg filled Cantonese style mooncakes

egg filled Cantonese style mooncakes

Mooncakes, yuè bǐng, are traditionally eaten, and in many parts of China can only be bought, during the mid-autumn period. There are two main types of mooncake, Cantonese style and Suzhou style. Cantonese style have a thick chewy pastry, while Suzhou style mooncakes tend to be flaky like puff pastry. They both come in a variety of flavours, everything from beef to mixed fruit, from egg to coconut, from green tea to ice cream. Some fillings are, of course, more traditional than others.

red bean filled Suzhou style mooncakes

red bean filled Suzhou style mooncakes

yuè 月 means moon and, unlike the word bǐng 饼, yuè is easy enough to translate directly into English. bǐng, although here translated as “cake”, can actually be translated many different ways in English. Tortillas, naan bread, cookies, cakes and pies can all be types of bǐng. The main defining feature is their shape, flat(ish) and round(ish).

So if you’re in China this mid-autumn make sure you try some different types of yuè bǐng.


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