Mooncake with Sweet Lotus Paste (Banh Trung Thu Nhan Hat Sen)
What is Tet Trung Thu?
Tet Trung Thu is a Vietnamese/Chinese celebratory event that takes place in the middle of the 8th lunar month. This year Tết Trung Thu is Friday, September 13th.
Tet Trung Thu, also known as Mid-Autumn Festival, Children’s Festival, Full-Moon Festival and Lantern Festival is an event that traditionally commemorates the final rice harvest of the year. It’s a time to relax and enjoy the company of families and friends, chase away bad spirits, and spread luck and prosperity to all, much like Chinese/Vietnamese New Year (Tet).
Children would line the streets at night, carry lanterns, beat drums, and participate in lion dances. Vietnamese families welcome the day by placing food on their ancestral altars, lighting incense and worshiping, before feasting on mooncakes.
All that love and worshiping is great and dandy, but really for me, Tet Trung Thu is all about gorging on mooncakes.
What are Mooncakes?
Mooncakes are round or square pastries with various savory and sweet filings. Typical mooncake fillings include different sweet pastes, mixed nuts and salted egg yolks. The pastes are typically sweetened lotus seed paste, red bean paste, black sesame paste and mung bean pastes. Before going into the oven to bake, the mooncakes are molded and stamped with an elaborate designs, usually a Chinese characters expressing good will, flowers or a simple beautiful geometric pattern.
The proper way eat a mooncake is to cut one into four pieces to share. Many store-bought moon cakes come with a plastic knife and several mini forks for this very reason. You savor the mooncakes with small bites and hot tea. At home, I simply chomp into one like an apple as my husband look in horror.
My favorite mooncake is one with a pure lotus seed paste filling. Husband prefers the salted egg and mixed nuts. I don’t know why. They are gross, tasting too much like Chinese herbal medicine rather than a sweet treat.
In the recipe below, I’m focusing on my favorite, Mooncake with Sweet Lotus Paste (Banh Tet Trung Nhan Hat Sen). My husband will just have to get his own from the store.
Mooncake with Sweet Lotus Paste Filling (Banh Tet Trung Nhan Hat Sen)
Makes 10 standard-size mooncakes
- 200g dried lotus seeds (without skin and core removed; wash and presoak overnight)
- Water as needed
- 80g granulated white sugar
- 90g vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 130g all-purpose flour plus 1/4 cup for dusting
- 25g vegetable oil
- 100g honey mixed with 2 tablespoons water
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon egg white
- Blender (Vitamix with plunger preferred) or food processor
- Kitchen scale
- Mooncake mold
- Small spray bottle with water
- Very small fine pastry brush (non-silicone)
Lotus Seed Paste (Nhan Hat Sen)
- Make the lotus seed paste: Rinse presoaked lotus seeds and place in a medium-size pot. Fill with water to cover the seeds by 1-inch. Simmer on low, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or when seeds are softened. Transfer lotus seeds to a blender or food processor and mix on high until smooth. If the blender gets stuck, add just enough water (no more than 1/3 cup) until it mixes again. A Vitamix blender with a plunger is great for making a very smooth paste without the need to add too much water. Once mixture is completely smooth, transfer paste to the medium-size frying pan. Heat on low and continually stir the paste mixture until you get a dry paste that has the texture of play-doh or soft clay. Shape filling into 10 balls, using a kitchen scale for uniformity. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Make the mooncake wrapper: In a medium-size mixing bowl, gently mix together flour, vegetable oil and honey/water mixture until combined and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Use a kitchen scale to divide the wrapper dough them into 10 balls of equal weight. Make sure to cover wrapper dough with plastic wrap to prevent drying out. Take one portion of the wrapper dough and use the palm of your hand to flatten it into a round wrapper. Place a filling ball in the center of the wrapper. Gently push the wrapper upward around the filling ball until completely covered.
- Dust your mooncake mold to prevent sticking. Place the wrapped filling ball into the mold and lightly dust the exposed bottom. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Push the plunger of the mold down and slowly release the mooncake onto the desired location on the baking sheet. Try not to move the mooncake as it will ruin the stamped pattern.
- Spray a very, very thin mist of water on the surface of the mooncakes to prevent cracking the surfaces. Do not spray too much water as it will ruin the stamped pattern.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 7 minutes at 350°F to firm the shape.
- In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and egg white with a fork unitl it smooth. Make sure there are no clumps. Transfer the mooncake out of the oven after the first 7-minute bake and brush the mooncakes ever so lightly with the egg wash mixture (top and sides). A heavy hand will ruin the pattern so be very, very careful. Put the mooncakes back into the oven and bake for 15 more minutes until golden brown. Do not overbake. The inside is already cooked and will dry out if overbaked.
- Allow the baked mooncakes to rest for one day to develop a shiny skin. Once surface is oily and shiny, it's ready to be packaged for gift giving or immediate consumption.