*** Read the background story below or scroll down directly for how to make “ice-skin” 冰(bing)皮(pi) mooncakes, or in all practicality, mochi.***
In Chinese tradition, the year is divided into 4 seasons – 春(chun), 夏(xia), 秋(qiu), 冬(dong).
Each season is then sub-divided into 3 parts – 孟(meng), 仲(zhong), 季(ji). Each part then essentially equates to the time period of one month. For example, 孟(meng)春(chun), 仲(zhong)春(chun), 季(ji)春(chun) can be understood as the first month of Spring, the second month of Spring, and the third month of Spring.
Accordingly, August 15 marks the middle of 仲(zhong)秋(qiu), or the middle of the second month of Autumn, hence mid-Autumn.
It was also observed to be the day of the year where the moon is at its roundest and brightest. The day, therefore, was also known as 月(yue)夕(xi), literally “setting moon”, as this was the day on which the moon would reach its zenith before waning.
A literal translation of the Chinese 月(yue) for moon and 饼(bing) for cake, mooncakes became physical representations of the full moon, round in shape and filled full with sweet (or salty) filling.
Overtime, eating mooncakes while gazing up at the moon became codified by the longstanding Chinese literati tradition as a poetic action that transcends physical distance to bring family and friends together. Everyone enjoys the same food, gazes at the same moon, and so shares the same moment together in time and space.
Take a minute tonight to gaze up the moon, relish in the moment shared with millions (and billions) of people around the world.
Mochi Mooncake Recipe
1/2 cup glutinous rice flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cooking oil
red bean paste (buy pre-made from any Chinese supermarket, or to make your own, refer to Cool and Healthy Matcha Ice Cream, adding corn starch instead of water to thicken the paste)
1. Place all ingredients (except for the red bean paste) into a bowl, using a spatula mix until smooth
2. Pour the mixture into a skillet, and place on low heat
3. Using a spatula, continuously stir the mixture, which will start to thicken, takes about 1-2 minutes
4. Keep stirring (or more like kneading/folding) over low heat for another ~2 minutes until “dough” is of even thickness and slightly translucent, make sure that the bottom/edges do not burn
5. Sprinkle a handful of glutinous rice flour on a 12″x12″ plastic wrap placed on a cutting board, transfer the “dough” into the center of plastic wrap, set aside to cool
6. Using your hands, shape red bean paste into10 balls, each 3/4″ in diameter, place in a bowl/plate
7. When the dough has cooled enough to touch, fold over the bottom edge of the plastic wrap, and roll the dough into a log shape, apprx 1″ in diameter
8. Starting from one end of the dough log and keeping the plastic wrap on (this prevents the knife from sticking to the dough), use a knife to cut the dough into 10 equal pieces (each piece should be around 1/2″ in width)
9. Fill a small bowl with cold water. Dip your fingers into the water and then take one of the cut dough pieces and press into a flat circular skin (the water will prevent the dough from sticking unto your fingers)
10. Take one of the pre-shaped red bean balls, place in center of skin and fold over
11. Roll into a ball, place unto a flat surface sprinkled with glutinous rice flour.
– To make it prettier, shape using a cookie mold. I used a mooncake mold with Chinese designs purchased on Taobao.
– For natural coloring, I used green tea / cactus fruit juice in place of water. You can also experiment with also fruits/vegetable.