What is the most unique dish that I have had.. thought long and hard about this one, and finally, on the basis of "there's nothing else like it", the Chinese Mooncake qualified.
Whilst I've had the cake many times, the last time I had the pleasure of biting into the hardended outer crust, soft azuki bean layer- lotus seeds adding the additional crunch and finally the salted duck egg crust (draw back pool of saliva in mouth) was magically enough, on a ferry in Hong Kong.
With the night at 10 degrees, we were travelling away from the mainland to the Ladies market and I'd popped into a bakery at the ferry station and picked up a patterned delicacy. Generally, there are words written on the cake, I've always assumed it would say good luck.. or have a good day.. But I'm guessing there's something different to that.
Typically found in East/South East Asia, it's so popular there's even a festival named after it- the mooncake festival celebrated mid autumn. Thousands of paper lanterns, coloured by candle light and shaped by different types of paper litter the night as children & adults walk through streets celebrating the festival. I forget now the point of the walk, but I do remember the banter and the ghost hunting that happened with the festival.
So what exactly is it? It's much like a sweet pie, although that description sounds like an aberration to the delicately pretty mooncake. Theres a layer of crust, Wikipedia tells me there's serveral types of crust, I've only ever had the chewy crust. The crust has the silent sheen of egg white, and can have patterns imprinted on it. Patterns like lotus flowers or inscriptions of lucky words.
This is followed by a mildly sweet paste that could be made of several fillings- popularily red azuki bean paste, lotus seed paste or yam paste. Right at the middle is the moon, or a yellow salted egg yolk (again mildly salted- that crumbles at a bite. This is so that if you're eating the mooncake with any direction, it is the crust that you will start with and it is the crust that you will end with.
Living in India, I haven't come across the cake anywhere.Thanks to Master Chef 2's contest, I've developed a strong craving for it.Should you know where to find mooncake, do let me know, especially in Bangalore.. I'll be happy to review! :)