Over the Moon
GoodMoon moon cakes complete a 1,500 year journey from China to Portland
STORY BY CHAD WALSH
Sarah Wong’s grandmother, Zhi Xu, turned 100 years old this past June. To celebrate her family’s matriarch, and give her family a glimpse of the homeland, Sarah and her two children headed to China.
Sarah says family plays an important role in her life, as do progressive ideas about what family means. Her husband insisted that her feet not be bound, flouting the custom of the day, and he took only one wife, unlike his brothers, who took two or three.
Still, Zhi Xu did play a traditional role in turn-of-the-20th-century China: She kept the family fed and taught her daughters, and her daughters’ daughters, how to keep their families fed, too. That included Wong.
Things were different when she was a kid, Sarah recalls. Homes didn’t have refrigerators — the cellar kept food cool. There was no central kitchen, either — just a big brick oven housed in the middle of the back yard.
As a child, Sarah remembers the joy of eating her grandmother’s moon cakes, which are primarily made with the adzuki bean, a common ingredient in a wide variety of Asian desserts. Moon cakes, Sarah says, have been popular in China, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan for more than 1,500 years, especially at the time of Harvest Festival in October.
In fact, it was when Sarah returned to China to celebrate the 2015 Harvest Festival that she reacquainted herself with the dessert.
“I wanted to buy a couple of boxes to bring home for my kids,” Sarah says. “But then I looked at the labels to see what’s inside the product.” What she read was a list of ingredients that included preservatives, dyes, and unhealthy amounts of sugar. As someone concerned with her own health and the health of her children, Wong balked.
“But when I returned home, I remembered that I used to make these with my grandmother when I was a little girl,” Sarah says. “I called my mom, and we dug into her memories and produced something close to what my grandmother made.”
Once Sarah and her mother had stitched together a recipe, Sarah treated her kids to their first moon cakes — but in smaller, bar-shaped sizes. “They loved it,” she says. “I was looking for some healthy, protein-forward breakfast options for my kids. The beans are just so good for you. Then I gave some to my neighbors, and they loved it.”
That was when she realized she was onto something. Still, she knew her moon cakes needed improvement, so she roped in a cooking ringer, chef Ellen Jackson, who, over a course of a couple of hours, helped her polish the recipe for mass production. Shortly after that, on October 1, 2016, GoodMoon was born.
At present, GoodMoon has only two flavors: hemp honey and raisins, and chocolate. A third, ginger-lemon, is in the works, but first, Wong must find a source for organic lemons.
Wong is very serious when it comes to sourcing, because she doesn’t want her snacks to just taste good; she wants you to feel good when you eat one. And clocking in at 120 calories, three grams of protein, and just five grams of sugar, the GoodMoon bars, Wong says, have achieved this goal.
Plus, she adds, they’re vegan and gluten-free, which makes them a perfect snack for anyone.
Find GoodMoon at Blend Coffee, Elephants on Corbett, Market of Choice, 15 New Seasons, and in the gift shop at Lan Su Chinese Garden.
Chad Walsh is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. He contributes to Eater PDX and writes for other publications, like Portland Mercury, Portland Monthly, and Edible Portland.