Tết Trung Thu, Mid-Autumn Festival, is a festival celebrated in Vietnam and China that traditionally marks the end of the autumn harvest, in Vietnamese culture it is considered the second most important festival after Tết. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. This year it falls on 15th September, however, preparations begin months in advance.
Eat ‘Bánh Trung Thu’ Moon cakes
Bánh Trung Thu, ‘Moon Cakes’ are a taste-sensation and the highlight of the Mid- Autumn Festival. The traditional cakes are filled with lotus seeds (hạt sen), ground beans (đậu xanh nghiền) and orange peels (trần bì or vỏ cam). In the centre of the cake is a salted egg (trứng muối) which represents the moon. Some ingredients, such as the sugar syrup (nước đường or siro đường) are prepared up to a year in advance. The salted eggs take just a few days to make. Moon cakes are given out to friends, family and business associates on the day of the full moon. They are best enjoyed with a cup of hot tea (trà nóng).
To experience moon cakes for yourself, either have a go at making your own or buy them ready-prepared from one of Saigon’s many bakeries, delicatessens and high-end hotels. Some places to buy baking supplies are;
Bình Tây Market, District 5 has a variety of ingredients and moulds on offer
Phương Hà, a large store in District 1, offers a good range of traditional ingredients. Visit 58 Hàm Nghi, District 1 or online
BakerLand, sells supplies to make your own moon cakes and also offers some good ready-made options. Visit them at 27B Nguyễn Thông, Ward 7, District 3 or online
Alternatively, some of Saigon’s best options for ready-prepared moon cakes are below
Bánh Trung Thu Kim Phượng, offers some excellent basic moon cakes. Visit 82 Cao Thang St, Ward 4, District 3 or online
Givral Bakery, the moon cakes on offer here are a good option if you’re looking to buy as gifts for clients and business associates. There are many creative options and fillings are varied including matcha, coffee, tiramisu and durian fruit. Various locations in Saigon, visit online
Bánh Mì Như Lan Bakery, a very affordable and come highly recommended by locals. Visit 365 Hai Bà Trưng, District 3.
The real Bánh mì Hà Nội, another option highly regarded by locals. Visit 83-85 Nguyễn Thiện Thuật St, District 3 or online.
Park Hyatt Saigon, luxury, exquisite mooncake collection including traditional Pure lotus 2 yolks, Mix nuts, premium green tea and Red bean marmalade mung bean. Park Hyatt Saigon ,2 Lam Son Square, District 1
Sofitel Hotel, exquisite, colourful hand-crafted moon cakes on offer that come beautifully packaged. Sofitel, 17 Le Duan, District 1 or order online.
Equatorial Hotel, these moon cakes come packaged in a premium keepsake traditionally decorated box. Equatorial Hotel, 242 Trần Bình Trọng, District 3 or order online.
Sheraton Hotel, hand-crafted using only the finest ingredients, include seven flavors (with or without egg yolks): White Lotus, Pandan, GreenTea, X.O, Cranberry, Pomelo, and Mixed Nut.Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers 88 Dong Khoi, District 1. HCMC
The Vagabond Bakery, perhaps the most luxurious variety of Moon cakes since this bakery offer moon cakes topped with 24k gold. This year they are also offering new varieties of moon cake fillings and shapes including jelly, mochi and snow scenes. Moon cakes need to be reserved well in advance, visit the bakery at 44/9 Phan Xích Long, District 3 or order online.
Visit ‘Lương Nhữ Học Street’ ‘Lantern Street’
Lương Nhữ Học which translates as ‘Lantern Street’ located in District 5 is considered the most popular place in Saigon to experience the festivities. The street which is packed with shops selling colourful lanterns is pedestrianised 3 weeks before Mid-Autumn. In the weeks leading up to the festival children parade the street singing and carrying lanterns in the form of fish, butterflies and stars.
A huge variety of lanterns are on offer including traditional handmade lanterns and modern, electric ones. The traditional lanterns are considered more popular because of the handicraft and skill that goes into making them. Some lanterns spin (đèn kéo quân) when a candle is inserted, this feature represents the Earth circling the sun. If you are lucky enough to be in Saigon during the Mid-Autumn Festival this year be sure not to miss out on a visit to this vibrant, mystical street to experience the festivities and buy a lantern or two to take home.