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Peak of the Season
August 30, 2010
SUMMER: Moon Cakes - Canadian Style
With September comes the first full moon of Autumn, and in the Asian culture, that means the Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, a 3,000-year-old seasonal celebration marked by the ubiquitous presence of moon cakes.
The doorknob-sized ornamental pastries are typically filled with a dense, sweet bean paste wrapped around a whole, salted, duck-egg yolk that represents the moon, and during the days of the festival you will see almost every member of Vancouver's Chinese community toting a ribboned gift box of the savoury treats. (Moon cakes are given to friends and family members as a token symbol of friendship, longevity and good luck.)
Not coming from the culture we find the intensity and heaviness of moon cakes a bit of an acquired taste, however if you search around, you can usually find someone producing an alternative, daintier, more bite-sized version that incorporates a quail egg as opposed to the traditional mouthful that is supplied by the ducks.
Mooncakes are such a iconic, well-loved item to anyone with a Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian or Philippine heritage that the opportunity to appropriate them has not been lost on savvy Western and Japanese marketers. There are moon cakes out there stamped with Starbucks logos, as well as Miss Kitty Faces. And it only seemed like a matter of time before someone locally produced a version that was more in harmony with Western tastebuds.
This appears to be the project that Executive Chef Daryle Nagata and his team of pasty chefs at the Pan Pacific Hotel has taken on. While they have kept their moon cakes authentic in terms of crust and form, the team has concocted Canadian style fillings with ingredients that include Ice Wine, filberts from Agassiz, sun-dried cranberries and dried Okanagan fruits and berries. As for the egg, where ever they laid it, they've forgotten.
Despite its egglessness, to make his moon cake, Nagata used an original recipe developed by one of Beijing’s leading cooking schools and drew on the experience gained when he was sent to China on behalf of the federal government to represent Canadian food exports. We were one of the first teams in Canada to celebrate the bounty of our great land by using Canadian ingredients in making Moon Cakes,” says Chef Nagata. “I have been blessed to experience how closely culture is tied to food. Moon cakes are a perfect example of how food can bring people together and how cultures across the world can also celebrate and appreciate the rich mosaic we live in.”
The Pan Pacific Moon Cakes will make an appearance on September 19 when the hotel's Sunday Brunch takes on an Asian theme in advance of the September 22nd start of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The extensive brunch buffet - which will feature popular items such as fresh seafood, carved Alberta beef, omelets made to order, as well as specialties from China, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Korea - will present a unique Ice Wine Moon Cake to each guest at the end of their meal.
The Chinese might say the guests will be "honourably mooned". But that doesn't translate very safely.
Moon Festival Celebrations at the Pan Pacific Vancouver
Sunday Brunch, September 19 at 11:30am – 2:30pm
Entertainment: The Golden Pearl Trio
Brunch: $49 per person, taxes additional
For reservations and information,call 604-895-2480.