August is not high on anybody’s list as an important month, but for the Vietnamese, it is not only the ghost month (see my previous post Hungry Ghosts and the Vu Lan Season), it is also the month when we soak our eggs to make our mooncakes.
Wanna make mooncakes with me? We can start by salting the eggs.
I usually get about two-dozen extra-large chicken eggs from the grocery store, put them into a plastic container with a tight lid seal, add water and salt, stick a label on the lid with the date-to-be-opened, and then shove the eggs all the way into the back of my refrigerator and wait the required time.
This date-to-be-opened is calculated by taking the day that Trung Thu lands on, and then adding three extra days. For example, Trung Thu lands on September 15 this year. If you subtract 28 days, you get August 18. Add an extra 3 days and it drops down to August 15th, which is a Monday.
On that day, I will be soaking my eggs. But today.
Today, I will be making the sugar glaze water and then storing it until the day when I need it.
Why so soon, you may ask.
It’s actually better to make it a year in advance, because the older it is, the better it tastes. But you know what…we’re Taobabes. We ain’t got the time or the space to store sugar glaze water for an entire year. One month out is good enough for this Taobabe.
So here it is, the ancient recipe for the sugar syrup used to make mooncakes. Make this and then find a nice cool place to store it.
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp lye water
1/2 tbsp Lime juice
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Don’t stir the water. You only want to swirl the pan occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Once the water boils, lower the fire and take it down to a simmer.
Add lime juice and lye water during this simmering time. Usa a wooden spoon and skim off the foam.
Simmer for 10-15 minutes until it is slightly thickened, then turn off the heat.
Allow for the syrup to cool and then store it in a jar with a tight lid, in a cool dry place.
And now, go outside and enjoy the remaining days of summer.
I’ll remind you when it’s time to salt them eggs; no worries.