Last weekend was the weekend of Mid Autumn Festival, and I got to experience a bit of the culture here. So apparently, in addition to sipping hot tea and nibbling on mooncakes while viewing the moon, folks in Taiwan also has a tradition of barbecuing. This "tradition" is rather a young one, having been started in the mid 80's, and according to my Mandarin teacher, from a barbecue sauce commercial. I'll ask her for the link of the youtube video and will update this post with it for you to see.
But yes, walking down the street here in Taipei, you will see people barbecuing with their family out on the side walks right in front of their homes. It was actually kind of confusing, since there are also street vendors who sell grilled things on the side of the road and sometimes it's hard to tell which is a street vendor with a host of patrons gathering around him and which is an actual family barbecuing with their loved ones. Hubby and I joked around and dared each other to come up to a random party, sit down, and just start ordering xD Of course we didn't pull the stunt, but the reaction would have been hilarious to see! ...Or not -.-' We're so immature, I know.
My mooncake plate ^.^ They're mostly Taiwanese style with just one tiny squarish Hongkong style (middle row, right) one mixed in.
I treated myself to the sweet-savory kinds from 2 different bakeries, just for the hell of it :P I've always favored the sweet-savory kinds over the sweet kinds with sweet bean paste fillings. The sweet-savory kinds has a mix of bean paste, shreds or crumbs of pork, and sometimes a salted egg yolk. I know that doesn't sound very good, but they don't taste as odd as they sound. The mooncakes here in Taiwan are actually very different than what I grew up with, which is the Hongkong style mooncakes. Those were pressed in wooden frames to form elaborate markings and shapes before baked to a brownish glossy/glazed surface. The Taiwanese mooncake are not pressed, and their crust is like a flaky pastry. I will admit that I much prefer this flaky crust. They just taste better for some reason, perhaps even lighter.
From left to right: mochi and fluffy pork (肉鬆) filling, pork curry filling, and roast pork and sweet beans filling mooncakes.
The funniest thing was that the mochi and fluffed meat filling (far left) was a total surprise. I actually didn't (and still don't) know the characters for mochi, and I didn't know what 肉鬆 was. I saw that it had pork in it and that was that. The character for meat (肉) by itself is almost certainly pork unless there's another character in front of it clarifying whether the meat is chicken or beef or duck, etc. Then I bit into it and thought, Ooh...that's what 肉鬆 is! And then I took another bite and thought, how come there's mochi in here?!? LOL! Too bad I gobbled it up before remembering to take a picture. Yes, it was delicious! And it would have been neat to be able to show you the mochi in the middle. Sorry! :(
In comparison to the mochi and fluffy pork filling, the roast pork and sweet beans filling was not as exciting. It was good, but no fun surprises like the mochi ^.^
And before you go "Eew..." let me assure you that the pork curry mooncake was actually quite yummy! I was pretty apprehensive buying it, not sure what I was getting myself into. However, there were fewer of it versus all the other kinds so I figured it couldn't have been so bad if it was so popular. That kind of logic doesn't always work, but in this case it did, because I came right back to that store the next day to buy some more! The curry flavor was just right, not too overwhelming and with just a touch of spice.
So I even presented the below to hubby and told him it was a pork curry mooncake and he grimaced. He actually doesn't like mooncakes so much, especially the sweet-savory ones - he just can't wrap his head around the sweet crust and the semi-sweet and savory filling! In his own words, "If it's a cake, why did they put meat in it?!?" By his logic a shepherd's pie ought to be filled with sweets, same with the Italian pie, i.e. a pizza, right? But then I somehow got him to take a bite, and well, he happily chowed down, gasp, a whole half of it! Oh darling, you tickle me.