Sunday marks the annual celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival, a major holiday in the Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese communities, which has its own food tradition: mooncakes. We’ve written about mooncakes before and where to get the Cantonese and Taiwanese versions, which is pretty much most bakeries and supermarkets in the San Gabriel Valley. (This year Bake Code is joining in with some traditional flavored minis.)
A quick primer: Mooncakes are a round or square pastry with a thin crust and a dense, thick filling traditionally made out of lotus seed paste with a duck egg yolk to represent the moon. Sweetened red bean paste and mung bean are two other typical fillings. However, there are regional variations and a wide range of other fillings, both sweet and savory. Then there are snow skin mooncakes, also known as snowys, which aren’t baked and served chilled.
Savory mooncakes aren’t nearly as easy to find as their sweet counterparts. You won’t see them at supermarkets; you just need to know where to look. Dean Sin World (306 N. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park), the little hole-in-the-wall known for its crab shell pastries, has a pork-filled version that is nicely browned with a strong ginger flavor. Nanjing Kitchen (706 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel) and the Alhambra location of Kang Kang Food Court (27 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra) also carry the meat-filled version. JJ Bakery (multiple locations around the San Gabriel Valley) has a mooncake that combines a traditional mung bean paste with pork, for a different, sweet-and-salty flavor profile. If you’re on the eastern side of the San Gabriel Valley, go to Little Shanghai in the Pacific Plaza Food Court (18457 E. Colima Road, Rowland Heights) for a meat-filled mooncake.
Snowys are recent additions to the mooncake realm, dating from 1989. Made from glutinous rice flour, the outer skin has the consistency of mochi, and the fillings are sometimes referred to as ice cream. The most common filling is durian paste, made from the notoriously stinky fruit popular in Southeast Asia. If you're not into durian, you can find flavors ranging from mango to cookies and cream.
Snowys aren’t cheap. The best deal we’ve found is one durian for $7 at Sunny Bakery (743 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel), a tiny Vietnamese bakery in a mini-mall. Tins and boxes of snowys run from $18 to $50 and can be found in freezer cases at most of the SGV’s supermarkets, as well as at specialty store Tak Shin Hong (four locations in the San Gabriel Valley).