29 September 2020

Mooncakes' gravitational pull brings Chinese community together

| Michael Weaver
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Durian mooncake for Chinese Moon festival

The durian mooncake is an acquired taste. Photos: Michelle Kroll.

Canberra’s Chinese community will have extra reasons to celebrate their national day this Thursday (1 October), with the gravitational pull of eating a mooncake bringing people closer.

The first day of the new month will also see the solar system align for the coming full moon, so the Chinese Moon Festival will take on additional significance this year.

The separation that many international residents of Canberra may also be feeling is represented by the mooncake, a Chinese delicacy that has a unique and symbolic taste.

President of the ACT Chinese Australian Association Chin Wong said the mooncake is made from the fruits or nuts of the season’s harvest while the full moon represents people’s wishes for the coming season.

“Traditionally, you might see the red bean paste or the lotus seeds and also, depending on whether you are from the north or south of China, you might have more nuts while people in the south of China might have the salty duck eggs,” Ms Wong said.

The lotus bean paste mooncake and the salted duck egg mooncake.

Other flavours of the mooncake include meats or the highly acquired taste of the durian, a fruit with the somewhat dubious reputation as being the smelliest fruit in the world.

“In east Asia, like Vietnam or Malaysia, the durian is the queen of the fruits and has a very, very strong smell,” Ms Wong said.

Chin Wong, Genevieve Jacobs and Victor Lin

Mmmmm. That’s good durian. Region Media Group Editor Genevieve Jacobs trying a durian mooncake, with Chin Wong and Victor Lin.

Watch below as members of Canberra’s Chinese community explain the mooncake and the mixed reactions of Region Media staff when they tried the durian mooncake, from “it smells worse than it tastes” to “oh, my god, what is that?”

Ms Wong said the mooncake also has an abundance of stories but is most commonly associated with the harvest.

“During the autumn or summer, we look to the moon as it is the biggest during that time. We pray for the family and a family reunion,” she said.

Victor Lin, the general manager Newstars Immigration and Education, said family and community are at the core of the Chinese Moon Festival.

“This is the second most important festival in Chinese culture. The biggest one is the Chinese festival, but the moon festival is all about reunions,” Mr Lin said.

“It’s a day where you celebrate with your friends and family.”


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A Chinese resident of Canberra, Laura Liu, said she will be thinking of her parents in China during the Moon Festival.

“We are far away from each other and can’t meet, but we all under one moon and share the same full, bright moon.

“It is also the reason why Chinese like to eat mooncakes and send the mooncakes to others on the day. The round mooncake just like the full moon, entrusted with our longing,” Laura said.

“My mother’s birthday is also on the moon festival, so my family tradition is that my father and I usually will try to find multiple tastes of mooncakes as big as possible in advance, and on the day, my father and I will cook a delicious big meal for my mum and use the mooncake as a birthday cake to celebrate.”

This year, the Canberra Moon Festival is going virtual! Find out more on our events page.

China Moon Festival 2020

Canberra Moon Festival 2020. Image: Facebook.

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Would like to try the cake made with Durian. Have certainly heard a lot about it.
It can be carried on a plane, but must be wrapped securely and carried in the planes hold. However even then there can be trouble.
On Monday 07 October 2019 a plane made an emergency landing while pilots donned oxygen masks when a shipment of durians stank out the aircraft cabin.

The Air Canada Rouge jet had just taken off for Vancouver from Montreal when the crew detected a “strong odour” onboard the Boeing 767 aircraft. Crew wanted to investigate the source of the stench, which had spread through the entire cabin.

When it could not be detected, the pilots made a request for an emergency landing, reported Flight Global. They put on oxygen masks and returned to Montreal, where it was discovered that the smell was coming from a shipment of the smelly fruit in the forward cargo compartment.

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