Follow Me To The Deep End!!

Sep 22, 2010

It's a Marvelous Night for Some Mooncake! Phoenix Bakery, Chinatown, Los Angeles.

DSC03514

There was a time when many of the things we ate were made by hand. Actual flesh and muscle stretched over bones bound with skin pressing, pulling and squeezing ingredients to form something delicious. Good things that were handcrafted instead of mass produced by a mechanized army of robot cooks.

DSC03511

The Chinese mooncake, eaten and gifted in massive amounts during the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, has also fallen to victim to the culinary industrial complex. What was a strictly artisanal product is now just another large-scale manufactured product like Pop-Tarts.

DSC03505

But not all have kowtowed to the beast of progress. At the Phoenix Bakery in LA's Chinatown, the Chan clan has been making mooncakes by hand for over 30 years. One generation passing this sweet skill off to the next.

DSC03507

A cherry wood mooncake mold, brought over from China decades ago and hand carved by seasoned craftsmen employing ancient Chinese techniques, has seen better days. Deep, dark grooves and mutilated edges tell of the many hammerings it has endured in the name of making a good mooncake, actually, hundreds of thousands of good mooncakes.

DSC03515

Dozens of clay-like lotus paste spheres encasing salted duck egg yolks sit waiting on a baking tray, looking much like a clique of caramel apples sans sticks. These will become one of the most popular type of mooncakes — the lotus with single yolk.

DSC03504

That particular flavor is for the traditionalist. Those who want a little something different can order the fruit nut, a double yolk, even a six-yolker.

DSC03524

Like a mini fruitcake in appearance, the fruit nut mooncake is dense and meaty with actual meat — a Virginia ham — as well as 7 different seeds and dried fruit. I can't stomach traditional fruitcake but this fruit nut mooncake is the best of the mooncakes at Phoenix. It was delicious, both sweet and savory.

DSC03526

Making mooncakes by hand is a great skill to witness. Lucky you, I got a video to share. And, of course, it's in bad ass HD! (Scroll down and click play.)

Phoenix Bakery Inc.
L.A. Chinatown
969 North Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012

213.628.4642

Phoenix Bakery website

Making Mooncakes from Ed Lin on Vimeo.

3 comments:

Anthony said...

Thanks for the look behinds the scenes. That paddle is crazy old!

averagebetty said...

I love it! I've been reading all about mooncakes lately... great video!

Eddie Lin said...

Average Betty,

Thanks! Good to hear you're into the mooncake thing. I'll be in Chinatown on Saturday night for the Moon Festival.