Harvest moon (cake)

illustration by Mark Stivers

Chinese people in the United States celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival (a.k.a. Moon Festival) on the day of the harvest moon (September 29), the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. It’s one of the most important holidays of the year for Chinese families—and also the only chance every year to eat a pastry called the moon cake. Sold at Asian supermarkets such as SF Supermarket (4562 Mack Road and 6930 65th Street) and 99 Ranch Market (4220 Florin Road), the small round pastries often contain taro, lotus seed, pineapple and assorted nuts. Some have a whole egg yolk baked in the center, a salty spherical tribute to the moon that balances well against the cakes’ thin—and often sweet—pastry crust and fillings. My favorite moon cakes are from the Bay Area’s Sheng Kee Bakery (available in local supermarkets) and Golden Gate Bakery (1029 Grant Avenue in San Francisco; not available in local supermarkets).