by To Nhu
Put off by soaring prices, many Ha Noi housewives join mooncake-making classes so that they can make the delicacies for their families and friends. Among the most crowded classes are those held at the Chat A Thinh Cake Making Training Centre in Hai Ba Trung District's Nguyen Huy Tu Street.
"It all started when some people asked me to open a class to satisfy their curiosity, but then hundreds of people registered," said Nguyen Duc Thinh, the centre's main teacher.
The same enthusiasm is seen at other cake-making centres. The Baking Centre in Nguyen Hong Street has at dozens of classes running seven days a week. The classes attract not only middle-aged women but also fathers, young couples and children from 12 to 14 years old.
Although 12-year-old Tran Minh is only a little higher than the moon-cake making table, he happily kneads the multi-varied stuffing for the cakes and gives it to his father for filling. He keeps asking if his work is good or not. His father, Tran Tien Long, who lives in Hoang Mai District's Linh Nam Road, took him to the cake making class to provide his son with an unforgettable Mid-Autumn celebration.
"I am generally so busy earning a living. Then I realised that the festival could slowly fade if children forget what it means. That's why I became involved," said Long. He remembers the Mid-Autumn Festival when he was small - and helping his grandmother make moon cakes. He also kneaded the dough into the shape of animals.
"I want my son to have good memories about the festival and learns how hard it is to make a cake so that he will respect labour," said Long.
Bui Kim Phuong, who lives in Dong Da District, teaches her two daughters how to make mooncakes and other cakes and cookies. As they mix and roll, Phuong and her daughters open their hearts to each other. She said that making the cakes was highly involved and needed patience, but with time and effort, every family could create its own happiness.
"The work of making moon cakes makes my daughters look forward to the festival instead of ignoring it as in recent years," she said.
Short training courses for making the traditional cakes have never been as popular as at present. For only about VND200,000 (US$9.50),anyone can join a course. Each class has from two to 20 trainees.
Mooncake moulds can be bought on To Tich and Hang Thiec streets and in big supermarkets. Ingredients such as melon seeds, dry preserved squash, almonds and syrup are available on Hang Dieu, Hang Than, Hang Buom streets and at Dong Xuan Market.
To add to the festival, Dinh Thu Giang, from Tu Liem District's Cau Dien Town, and five of her friends make dozens of mooncakes to give their relatives, friends and poor children. On the market, a mooncake is sold for VND45,000-80,000 ($2-3) so the fund of VND2 million ($95) pooled by Giang and her friends would only be enough to buy at most 40 cakes. But by making their own, they can make 200 cakes with better quality than those sold in the marketplace.
After many years' experiences, Nguyen Van Son, a teacher at the Baking Centre, said mooncakes being sold on the market often used preservatives and food additives and many were sold one or two months after being made, so customers could not feel secure about their quality.
Home-made mooncakes do not use additives and must be used within two weeks. Sticky rice moon cakes should be eaten within a day or so when the casing is still soft, whereas baked mooncakes should be eaten within four or five days when the cake stuffing becomes absorbed into the crust. — VNS