Last week, China and Vietnam celebrated a huge holiday: the Mid-Autumn Festival. One of the important foods for the holiday are mooncakes, pastries with a dense and sweet filling.
And just as Thanksgiving needs turkey and Chuseok needs songpyeon, a Mid-Autumn Festival celebration would not be complete without mooncakes. These treats are often given to relatives and friends as a show of love and good wishes for the upcoming year. And when it’s time to eat one, they’re often cut into smaller pieces, paired with tea, and shared with loved ones.
This year, I ordered a few mooncakes from Mimi’s Mooncakes. I heard about them through blogger @bun.bobae, whose mother Mimi Pham makes these Vietnamese-style mooncakes (called “Bánh Trung Thu”). While these sweets originated in China, they eventually made their way to the Vietnamese people, who modified the pastry by adding different kinds of fillings. It’s also notable that there are two different styles of Vietnamese mooncakes: a baked version (called Bánh nướng) that resembles the mooncakes of most other Asian countries and a “snowskin” version (named Bánh dẻo) made of toasted glutinous rice flour. Mimi makes both!
So how did this mooncake business come about? Well, Mimi originally made mooncakes as Mid-Autumn Festival gifts for family and friends. Those lucky recipients loved those treats so much that they asked if they could buy some for their friends and family. And that started a domino effect that eventually led to Mimi creating a mooncake business!
Nowadays, If you live in an area with a large Asian population, can buy mooncakes fairly easily (I even saw some at Costco). But Mimi’s is special because all her mooncakes are handmade. That’s not an easy thing to do. In fact, noted Vietnamese food author Andrea Nguyen said on her blog that making mooncakes is “old-school cooking” that is “arguably one of the more difficult forms of pastry to master.” Because of that, most people simply purchase mooncakes. Unfortunately, mooncakes, like most foods, just don’t taste quite the same when they are mass-produced in a factory somewhere.
So being able to try some of Mimi’s mooncakes was special. They are beautiful to look at, so you may find it hard to believe that they taste even better than they look—but it’s true. There is a lot of time, love, and pride that goes into each of these individually wrapped mooncakes.
Since the Mid-Autumn Festival has passed, Mimi is no longer taking orders for her mooncakes. However, if you follow Mimi at @mamanuyen or her daughter @bun.bobae, they will definitely let you know when the orders are open again. And trust me, it would be a mistake not to try them! They also make announcements when they make and sell treats for other holidays like Lunar New Years so there’s that too.