One of the loveliest Asian celebrations is the Moon Festival. Its name is dreamy and romantic, but the festival’s origins are solidly earthy in nature and date all the way back to the 10th century BC. It is a particularly important celebration in Chinese and Vietnamese culture, but a version of it is also known in the Philippines.
The Festival celebrated the end of the harvest and acknowledged how important the natural elements were in bringing forth bountiful crops. In ancient Vietnam while the dragon was thanked for bringing rain, it was the moon who was honoured for bringing her life-giving fertility to the land.
Mark your calendar now because this gorgeous Festival, which coincides with the full moon, is coming up on the 27th September. A traditional part of the harvest celebration feast was the baking and sharing of a sweet delicacy known as a moon cake. But where on earth in Newcastle could you get an authentic moon cake? You know I am going to say ‘in the West End, of course’. So there, I’ve said it! Look no further.
Being in hot pursuit of a delicious moon cake is a great excuse to walk in the door of our wonderful Asian grocery shop AKK (Dansy). 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, much more.
The business is owned by Evanna and her husband Hon Yick who have operated it since 2000. For someone who runs a store open 7 days a week I smile ironically when Evanna confesses to me that she doesn’t like shopping at all. Luckily her Hong Kong-based mother and sister-in-law do; they regularly scour that South-East Asian shopping mecca on her behalf, sending back unique products for their store.
AKK (Dansy) stocks a dazzling range of produce and cooking implements including: bamboo steamers, woks, gorgeous crockery and fridges full of fresh yum cha and hot pot ingredients. It’s enough to bring out your inner Kylie Kwong! If it does, then Evanna is here to help; she frequently has customers keen to start cooking authentic Asian dishes, but not knowing where to start. She says “Just ask me”, she’s more than happy to demystify the intricacies of Asian cuisine.
Local foodies clearly know and love this shop. Evanna greets them by name and updates them about the status of their special orders. Hon travels regularly to Sydney’s Chinatown where he tracks down specialty items to meet their customers culinary needs. Right on cue – and unprompted – a customer leans in to tell me that AKK (Dansy) sells the best Chinese chicken stock he has ever tasted and would I please put that in the blog. So now you know.
The shop has more than just culinary delights. My eye is caught by the primary colours of the delicate paper lanterns, quirky lucky charms, satin cushion covers and embroidered table runners, campy Hello Kitty merchandise, exquisitely beaded velvet slippers, pretty lipstick holders, silk makeup purses and rose and sandalwood soaps. That this authentic place of Asian food and home wares has found a natural home in our part of town is just perfect, isn’t it? East meets the West (End).
Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: firstname.lastname@example.org; 0413 250 155.
This blog post first appeared as ‘Finding lunar cakes in foodie heaven’ in August 2013.