Best Recipe Ever: Moon Cakes

The Harvest Moon Festival and Moon Cakes are very special to me. First of all, it was one of the first foods I tasted many years ago when I went to live in Taiwan. If you happen to go to Chinatown, you will see the Chinese bakery shelves are filled with numerous varieties, each one with a different filling. The Chinese like their moon cakes stuffed with red bean paste, lotus seed paste, and dried fruits and occasionally garnished with a salty duck egg yolk. Sound appetizing? They can be cloying and not as appealing to the western palate.

I learned a wonderful version of moon cakes from a Chinese chef years ago in Taiwan and I’ve further adapted the recipe. My Five-Treasure Moon Cakes have a buttery-vanilla crust stuffed with a sumptuous apricot marmalade filling, and it is one of my favorite recipes. I like to make a batch or two of the dough and filling and stuff them. I then freeze the uncooked, shaped cakes in plastic bags and bake them the day I am serving them. They are delicious served with tea.

Let’s all celebrate this beautiful, but poignant time of year! (Winter’s on the way.)

Enjoy the full, harvest moon and make moon cakes.


Moon cake presses can be ordered through Woks ‘n’ Things, 2234 S. Wentworth Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. Phone: 312-842-0701

Five Treasure Moon Cakes

makes20 moon cakes


During the Harvest Moon Festival, Chinese bakery shelves are loaded with moon cakes — salty with a meat or vegetable filling, or sweet with red bean date pastes or candied fruits. I’ve developed an easy filling that’s a mixture of apricot jam, raisins, dates, and coconut. I recommend using a moon cake mold (see note *), but you may improvise by hand-shaping the cookies into circles and drawing a simple design on top.

4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dried milk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup apricot preserves (one 12-ounce jar)
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
3/4 cup raisins

1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water

  1. To make the crust, sift together the flour, dried milk powder, and salt. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, add the sugar, and beat vigorously until the mixture “ribbons” off the beaters, about 5 minutes. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract, and the sifted, dry ingredients to the egg mixture, folding after each addition. Mix to a rough dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly to a smooth dough. Form the dough into a long, snake-like roll and cut into 20 pieces.
  2. Mix together the ingredients of the filling and stir to combine evenly. Divide into 20 portions.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Using your fingers, press each dough piece into a 3-inch circle with the edges thinner and the center thicker. Place a portion of filling in the center, gather up the edges of the dough to enclose the filling and pinch to seal. Roll the cake into a ball and flatten it to a 3-inch round. Press into a moon cake mold or carve a crisscross design on top. (If you are using a moon cake press *, arrange on a cookie sheet and chill overnight.) Rearrange the the cakes about 1 inch apart on lightly buttered baking sheets. Brush the surface of the moon cakes with the glaze. Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a rack and serve.


From “Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragonboats,” by Nina Simonds

* Moon cake presses can be ordered through Woks ‘n’ Things, 2234 S. Wentworth Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60616. Phone: 312-842-0701


The NEW Fried Rice with Ming Tsai

According to celebrity chef Ming Tsai, shrimp fried rice was the first dish that he learned to cook as a child. Now, many years later, after training in France, Japan, and in restaurants around the country, the owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass., has updated the recipe to make it even more delicious and healthy. Ming created the recipe inspired by the Healthy Eating Pyramid. To learn more, go to at the Harvard School of Public Health website.

Ming is not only a member of the Nutrition Roundtable, but a national spokesperson for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), working to further education and research on food allergies. To learn more about Ming, his restaurant, books, and other activities, check out

Ming’s shrimp fried rice is a sumptuous meal-in-one dinner, and the leftovers are terrific for lunch or dinner the next day.



Shrimp-Veggie Fried Rice

Serves 4

1 pound baby shrimp
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts chopped and reserved separately
3 carrots, grated
4 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 cups shredded kale, 1/4-inch thick, stems and center ribs removed
5 cups leftover, cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat.  Add about 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add shrimp, season with salt and pepper and stir-fry just until pink. Remove shrimp to a plate. Add a touch more oil and add the garlic, ginger, onion, scallion whites, carrots, celery and kale and stir-fry until softened, about 2-4 minutes. Add the rice and shrimp and toss thoroughly until heated through. Add the soy sauce and toss. Correct the seasonings and transfer to a platter and garnish with scallion greens. Serve immediately.

copyright 2008 Ming Tsai

Easy Dinner, Pyramid-Style

Let’s face it. When it comes to dinner, we want it all:

  • Easy
  • Delicious
  • Healthy

I’m no different even though I’m a cookbook author with 10 books to my credit. Making dinner every night can be a drag.

Dr. Lillian Cheung, a nutritionist from the Harvard School of Public Health, loves to cook, and she knows what’s good for you. Lillian and I went to a Farmer’s Market and were inspired. Using the HSPH newly-designed Food Pyramid (you can actually understand it!), Lillian and I give different ideas for a great autumn menu.

Go to the Recipe section for

  • Cantonese-style Microwave-Steamed Halibut with Scallions and Ginger
  • Roasted Ratatouille with Zucchini, Eggplant, and Cherry Tomatoes (great for leftovers)
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Herbal Brown Rice

For information on the newly formed HSPH Pyramid, go to the News Section.



Click here for recipes.

Disclaimer: Herbs, foods, and other natural remedies are not substitutes for professional medical care.
For a specific health problem, consult a qualified health-care giver for guidance.