One of the loveliest Asian celebrations will be held next month, the annual Mid-Autumn Festival. Of course being the so-called Land Down Under that means we are observing this in mid-spring, but regardless of the season mark your calendar now, this gorgeous festival is coming up on 19 September. The festival’s date is calculated as being on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar and because it is always held during a full moon it is often called the Moon Festival. It is a particularly important celebration in Chinese and Vietnamese culture, but a version of it is also known in the Philippines.
The festival’s origins date back to the 10th century BC where it celebrated the end of the harvest and acknowledged the importance of the natural elements in bringing forth bountiful crops. In ancient Vietnam the dragon was honoured for bringing rain and the moon was thanked for bringing fertility, from this arose a tradition of making and sharing a sweet delicacy known as a mooncake as part of the harvest celebrations.
If you are hot in pursuit of authentic local mooncakes the Asian grocery shop AKK (Dansy) is the natural place to start. Here small individual mooncakes and large family-sized ones are available along with an extraordinary array of other products. In this crowded shop, full of vibrantly coloured stock, you can find everything you need to celebrate the upcoming Moon Festival and much more.
The business is owned by Evanna and husband Hon Yick who have operated it since 2000. For someone running a 7-day per week shop Evanna smiles ironically when she confesses that she actually doesn’t like shopping at all. Luckily her Hong Kong-based mother and sister-in-law do; so they regularly scour that shopping Mecca on her behalf sending back special products for the Newcastle store.
Foodies clearly know and love this shop. Evanna greets them by name and lets them know that their orders are in, Hon has returned from one of his regular trips to Chinatown in Sydney where he buys up speciality items to fill customers’ specific food requests. Right on cue a customer leans in to tell me that the shop sells the best Chinese chicken stock he has ever tasted – so now you know.
If the dazzling range of produce and cooking implements, including: bamboo steamers, woks, gorgeous crockery and fridges full of fresh yum cha and hot pot ingredients brings out your inner Kylie Kwong, then Evanna is here to help. She frequently has customers keen to start cooking authentic Asian dishes, but they don’t know where to start – so just ask her.
The shop has more than just culinary delights. My eye is caught by the sensual delight of delicate paper lanterns, quirky lucky charms, satin cushion covers and embroidered table runners, Hello Kitty merchandise, exquisitely beaded velvet slippers, tiny lipstick holders, silk makeup purses and rose and sandalwood soaps.
This authentic place of Eastern culture has found a natural home in the West End, surely the most eclectic part of Newcastle and a part of the city which never fails to surprise.
AKK (Dansy) Pty Ltd, 661 Hunter Street, Newcastle West. Phone: 4929 7883
Open 7 days per week.
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