The Asian Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival is a time of celebration in Asian communities. The holiday takes place when the moon is largest at the end of the autumn harvest.
This year The Asian Moon Festival occurs on Sept. 21. YouYu Noodle Bar at Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana will celebrate the occasion on Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 to 21.
What's unique about this cultural festival is that people celebrate by enjoying specialty pastries called Moon Cakes. YouYu will present diners with a free Moon Cake with the order of any entree from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sept. 18, 19 and 21. (Sept. 20 is excluded for that promotion).
Moon Cakes come in traditional flavors as well as specialty fruit flavors. They are decorated with elaborate designs on top and inside many of them, specifically the traditional preparation, will be a circle representing the moon.
"The circle also represents unity," said Jenny Moy, director of Asian Player Development at Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary. Moy explained the traditional Moon Cake is made of white lotus and egg yolks. She said the holiday is commonly celebrated in Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean cultures.
Wing Chung, executive chef of YouYu Noodle Bar said he's enjoyed the festivities surrounding Asian Moon Festival throughout his life. "There's a love story and a history story (behind Moon Cakes)," he said, referring to the fact the festival also pays tribute to Chang’e, who is the Chinese goddess of the moon.
Chung's favorite Moon Cakes are the traditional.
"I always liked the classic ones. But I like trying the new flavors," he said, adding he's adventurous when it comes to food.
Moy said YouYu will be offering the traditional cakes as well as various other flavors including pineapple, mango and guava.
Moy, who grew up in Chicago, said her parents passed down the tradition of celebrating the Asian Moon Fest in their family. "It's kind of like our Thanksgiving," she said adding the celebration also showcases a love of the culture and of food.
In addition to the special Moon Cakes, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy dishes from YouYu's menu, which features assorted rice and noodle dishes, soups and other entrees.
Chung said the restaurant's menu is really an "upscale" take on many Asian street food specialties. Guests will find everything from Curry Singapore Noodle and Beef & Black Pepper Sauce to Kung Pao Chicken, Shrimp Pad Thai, Crispy Shrimp Spring Rolls, Three Cup Chicken and more on the menu.
The chef, who was born in China, said he was always interested in cooking.
"I learned from my grandmother. She did a lot of cooking," Chung said.
YouYu Noodle Bar's menu, Chung said, offers occasional specials, but pretty much stays the same. The chef stressed that consistency with the product leads to things being done "right" and with excellence.
The following recipe is from YouYu Noodle Bar.
Beef & Black Pepper Sauce
6 ounces flank steak
3 ounces red bell pepper
3 ounces Spanish onion
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper sauce
1/2 ounce cooking wine
2 ounces special soy
1 ounce cornstarch slurry
DIRECTIONS: Flash fry the flank steak, onion and red bell pepper. Strain. Using the same wok, add back all the ingredients. Add cooking wine, special soy, black pepper. Stir together until mixed well and bring to a boil. Add cornstarch slurry and mix well. Serve.