Red has numerous associations in Vietnam. The national flag is predominately red. Communists are reds. It is considered lucky. At Tet (Lunar New Year), lucky money is gifted in little red envelopes. Red is also heat in Vietnam. In the past when I've worn a red shirt, my colleagues and students complained that it made them feel hot.
This season in Hanoi the streets are luminescent red. The traditional mooncake is being sold in retail outlets permanent and temporary, by mass producers and artisan bakers alike.
And they do not come packaged in blue!
This year the Mid-Autumn Festival occurs on Wednesday and it has become a big commercial occasion causing one of the Old Quarter's biggest traffic gridlocks of the year. On the Christian calendar, this festival would be like Easter but...um, minus the crucifixion and resurrection. If Tết is like Christmas, Tết Trung Thu is like Easter, essentially for kids, not with chocolate but with toys and cakes. Masks, fluffy stuffed toys, simple stars made colourful with tinsel and cellophane and every cheap spinning, jumping, swimming, flashing, noise-making wind-up or battery-operated toy imaginable is sending kids dizzy and setting parents on edge in Hanoi's Hàng Mã Street.
One only needs to experience this phenomenom once.
But I do give the mooncakes a go each year. The baked one above is known as Bánh nướng nhân thập cẩm, which consists of a mix of funky ingredients including sugar, pig's nape fat, winter-melon, lemon leaves and Chinese sausage. Not surprisingly, it's hardly everybody's cup of tea. But there is enough mooncake variation to find a cake to suit one's palate.
Another variety is made with glutinous rice, but that will do until my next post.