Mid-Autumn Festivalis around the corner and I believe many people are making their own or heading to the popular or their favourite outlets for the attractive little 'cakes' of various shapes and variety of fillings.
Here, I'm sharing a very informative article on mooncakes from a book 'What's in your food? written be a food chemist Chia Joo Suan for your general reading and food for thoughts.
[Mooncake [a dessert] is known for its exotic taste, health giving properties and is very nourishing. A closer analysis of the ingredients used in making the mooncake indicates the claims by our grandmothers were not far from the truth after all.
Types of mooncakes
The special feature of mooncake is the thin pastry [about 1/2 cm thick] with lots of filling. Traditional versions use various nuts, seeds and beans as fillings. The pastry is shaped in a wooden mould either round, square or other shapes. There are words or decorative patterns on the surface of the cake to differentiate the type of fillings.
Nutty filling - the main ingredients in the nutty mooncake are walnut, almond, melon, sesame and olive seeds. These are bonded together with cooked glutinous rice powder flavoured with orange peels and glazed winter melon chips.
Benefits of the nuts - studies reported that eating nuts regularly could significantly reduce the incidence of coronary artery disease. Nuts contain a high content of unsaturated fatty acids [helps to reduce blood cholesterol level] and are low in saturated fatty acid.
Walnuts - have a good ratio of omega-3 [noted for protection against heart disease] and omega-6 fatty acids [shown to lower the level of the bad cholesterol - low density lipoprotein LDL]. Contains amino acid [phenylalanine] that functions as an antidepressant and helps improve memory and brain functions. Deficiency of this amino acid could be the reason for slow growth, lethargy, liver problems and general weakness. Also contains amino acid [arginine] that stimulates growth hormones and improve immune system. Promotes muscle growth and wound healing. Deficiency of this amino acid may cause hair loss.
Almonds - contains amino acids [leucine and isoleucine] are required for energy and blood sugar regulation, growth and wound healing. Thus resolving fatigue, depression and irritability problems. The natural relaxant tryptophan helps to alleviate insomnia by inducing sleep and relieves anxiety.
Generally, nuts and seeds contain many minerals and vitamins required for body functions. Almond, walnut and sesame all have selenium. Melon seeds contain cucurbocitrin that aids in lowering blood pressure and improve kidney functions.
Sesame seeds contains serine, phosphorous and calcium - known to improve skin complexion, nourishes the brain and bone. Tyrosine in sesame seeds aids in mood regulation, overcomes depression and improves memory and alertness.
Red Beans - another favourite filling, help alleviate anaemia, build strong bones and relieve water retention in the feet.
Lotus seeds - contain 4 times higher potassium than peanuts. Potassium is responsible for the electrochemical balances of heart tissue and other muscles. Helps to regulate heart functions and normalise blood pressure. Also contains other minerals [phosphorous, iron and calcium] helps to maintain proper body functions. Its B vitamins help calm the nervous system.
Prelude to pastry
The dark colour of the mooncake pastry is due to lye water and syrup. The alkaline water gives a soft and dark colour to the pastry and aids in longer shelf life. Addition of lime juice [citric acid] in the syrup, giving the pastry better texture and aroma. Commercial products may have propionic acid [a permitted preservative] in the pastry to prolong the shelf life.
Mooncakes are loaded with calories contributed by the nuts, sugar and oil. Nutty mooncakes contain high amino acids nut excessive consumption of amino acids [esp. phenyalanine, leucine and isoleucine] may give rise to symptoms of energy imbalance, thus resulting in headaches, thirst or other uncomfortable feelings.]
Notes: While nuts and seeds may be good for the body, they are loaded with calories. To benefit from eating nuts and seeds, take only about 25 gm or 3-4 tablespoons a day.