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By Steven Li on 2005-09-21

September 21, 2005


Happy Belated Moon Cake Day!
My aunt and uncle live near LA and have been taking me out on weekends for wonderful food expeditions (basically I’m stuffing myself silly from Fri-Sun). They live in Alhambra which is pretty much like one massive Chinatown.My aunt, uncle and I at Fosselmans (http://fosselmans.com/). We came here about three times in the past month. Of the flavors I’ve tried, the taro is definitely the best – a very earthy taro flavor and not too sweet, even a bit salty, it is very un-ice cream like and perhaps that is why I like it! (odd things appeal to me).After a brief ice cream stop, we headed over to Van’s Bakery.

The bakery specializes in Vietnamese treats that are IMPOSSIBLE to find in Hawaii and even difficult in NYC. But today we were not interested in traditional Vietnamese treats. Oh no, we were here to MOONCAKE.The yellow on the right is a durian mooncake wrapped in yellow mung bean mochi. The green one has a traditional lotus and egg filling but is wrapped in green bean much. Pretty neato, eh? They are pretty expensive at $5 a piece, but I suppose those mooncaking companies only make their profit during this one season, so support the mooncakers!

You’ll find a lot of animal shaped mooncakes in Saigon. The mooncake is composed of only the cakey part and is usually given as gifts or treats to children. They don’t taste that great, so people usually display them until…they get moldy? Nonetheless, I wouldn’t mind having a mouse mooncake sitting on my desk. Isn’t it just crazy – all these variations of mooncakes?! Maybe during my midlife crisis (which I intend to encounter after I pass the CPA exam) I will open a mooncake shop. Crap, that will have to wait until after I graduate from the French Culinary Institute. There’s not enough time in the world!

Just for this weekend, Van’s emptied out their regular display case of Vietnamese puddings, porridges and sweets and filled it with even more mooncakes! There was at least a dozen different varieties here. It’s kind of hard to see in the picture but at the front of the case they’ve cut each mooncake in half so you can see what the inside looks like. They’ve got pineapple, lotus seed, and even mango fillings. And then you must decide how many eggs you want inside: one, two, THREE? I always believe the more eggs the merrier (otherwise it gets to sweet without any saltiness to contrast the paste fillings).

Sorry, I’m having issues rotating the picture, so you’ll have to forgive me. I’ve developed an addiction to caphe su da, the iced vietnamese coffee. It’s gotten to the point where I have to brew my own cup (as there are NO Vietnamese places here in Claremont!) Alhambra has more than it’s share of stores offering caphe su da, but Van’s and another nearby noodle shop make it the best. I noticed that on the west coast the coffee is much more stronger than back home in Hawaii or NYC. Perhaps it is becuase the Asian population here not just the majority but the ENTIRE population?

I spotted this (right) just before leaving. It looks a hell of a lot like mochi, and since I haven’t had mochi in a long time, why the hell not? The picture on the right shows the entire cake. You can buy it by the piece ($1.50) or the cake (not sure on the price). It’s a lot like butter mochi except a lot lighter on the butter and heavier on the coconut. I think I could spend the entire day in this bakery and still be amazed by everything. We should all just move to Vietnam for the sole purpose of eating.

After dinner at Mahan near Main St. we headed home to devour the mooncakes we had bought and recieved as gifts. Clockwise from the top: a the mini orginal mooncake with the lotus seed filling and one egg, a durian mooncake with two eggs, a melon paste filled mooncake wrapped in mung bean cake, a pinapple mooncake, another orginal mini. I enjoyed the durian one the most mainly becuase durian is my favorite fruit (for the moment) and it had two eggs! Durian and salty eggs, who would have thought it would make such a fantastic combination?And thus was the end of my mooncaking day. It was thoroughly exhausting in a very good way. Now I am back at school trying to explain the concept of a mooncake to my vegetarian/very health conscious roomate, I’m not quite sure if she understands.

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