Sep 22, 2010
It's a Marvelous Night for Some Mooncake! Phoenix Bakery, Chinatown, Los Angeles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
969 North Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phoenix Bakery website