Wherever you are, look out for tonight’s full moon – it’s supposedly the largest, roundest moon of the year, celebrated across China by the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The moon’s perfect circle symbolises unity with family and friends, and the holiday is traditionally cause for a big family dinner, with children allowed to stay up late to watch the moon and play with candle-lit lanterns, dimly echoing the moon’s light.
Most conspicuously, however, at least here in Hong Kong, tonight is the time for giving, receiving and eating great piles of mooncakes. Rich pastries with even richer fillings (bigger ones can carry a whopping 1,000 calories inside their stodgy pastry shells), mooncakes are given in enormous quantities each mid-autumn, although this year there’s been a reduction in Chinese demand, thanks to a corruption crack-down on the mainland. (Wondering what the link is between cake and corruption? Read this.)
If you fancy something lighter for dinner tonight, I heartily recommend the dish below, which uses salty duck egg yolks – one of the traditional mooncake fillings. Enjoy!
Tofu with Salty Egg Yolks
This Cantonese-style tofu may have usurped Mapo Tofu from its place close to my heart (I only have room for one tofu dish). Soft tofu is topped with crumbled salty egg yolks and soy sauce, steamed, and topped with chopped coriander and spring onions. It may look odd and beige, but serve it with rice and you’ll discover that it’s intensely moreish, as well as very easy to make…
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Quantity: Enough for two hungry people if served with rice and one other dish
Weird-but-necessary equipment: A bamboo steamer with lid
400g silken or soft tofu
4 salty duck eggs, preferably uncooked*
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp vegetable oil
A handful of chopped coriander (cilantro) and spring onions
1) Heat a saucepan of water over a high heat. While the water comes to the boil, prepare the tofu.
2) Drain the tofu and tip it into a shallow bowl (the tofu will be both cooked and served in the same dish). Chop it about a bit with a fork until it’s in an even layer over the bottom of the bowl – try to keep the chunks fairly large, as this will give the finished dish a better texture.
3) Shell the eggs and remove the yolks, which should be solid even if the whites are still liquid. Chop or mash these into small chunks and sprinkle over the tofu. Drizzle the soy sauce and oil over the top of the egg and tofu and place the dish inside the steamer basket.
4) When your water is boiling, put the lid on the steamer basket and place the whole thing on top of the saucepan. Reduce the heat slightly and steam for 8-10 minutes.
5) Once cooked, remove the steamer from the heat (I always burn myself somewhere around this point, but that’s not compulsory), fling the coriander and spring onions on top and serve with steamed rice. 慢用! (Enjoy!)
* Unless you live in China or near an Asian market these might be hard to get. Sadly, in this case there’s no real alternative – regular egg yolks with extra salt on top just won’t cut it, I’m afraid…