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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Cabramatta Moon Festival

Yup. Another festival.

Luck seemed to be shining on AG for when I arrived at Cabramatta in Sydney's west at 11.35am, I heard the sound of beating drums and clashing cymbals. Following the adrenalin-inducing beat, I discovered a huge crowd around lion dancers, who were performing moves sans-costume.

The crowd was thick and since I could barely get a look-in, let alone a lens in, I was about to walk away when suddenly there was an ear-piercing shrill whistle. Before I knew it, there was shimmer of sequins, a couple of head wobbles and phooomph, a pride of lions just materialised before my eyes.

One... two... three... four... whoah! There were ten lions in all.

I followed the instant parade of lions to a nearby restaurant where ten lions crammed onto the footpath and performed an elaborate display of head rearing, booty-shaking and the occasional batting of eyelashes. The performance concluded with the eating of lettuce.

Restaurants and shops will often hang a lettuce above their doorway as a lure and payment for lions. This ensures the lion will come to the shop and its fiercesome presence--along with the banging of drums and clash of cymbals--will scare away any evil spirits from the business.

Hidden within the head of a lettuce is a lai see, or a red packet. This contains money for the dancers and is an expression of gratitude by the shopkeer for the lion's blessing.

Traditionally the lion will "swallow" the lettuce and then suddenly (after some frenzied activity by the man inside), the lion will spit bits of lettuce back onto the crowd. This showering of greens onto the crowd represents abundance and assures the crowd of impending good luck and success.

Approaching the Pai Lau Gate in Freedom Plaza

Belly dancers

Apparently organisers were expecting crowds in excess of 60,000 people. I suspect there were far far more. The main street, John Street, was shoulder-to-shoulder with people and even I, the hard-core city-jostler, found the crowds claustrophobic and frustrating.

So I ended up exploring the myriad of arcades which lead off John Street. I've been to Cabramatta several times before, but it was only after a few hours of exploration that I finally worked out how all the streets joined up together!

This bakery / sugar cane juice shop also sells takeaway Vietnamese lunch boxes.

Asian fruit shop (those pineapples look super sweet)

Asian grocery with hands of bananas hanging overhead.
The women are inspecting boxes of mooncake.

By about 2.00pm the crowds had finally eased a little, enabling me to finally walk down the main road. Admittedly John Street is quite a narrow road but, now that I'm an old hand at Council-run festivals, I wasn't sure whether the stages could have been more strategically placed to allow better crowd-flow.

That's a big pot!
A foodstall serves up some takeway noodle soup.
The woman pictured gave me a very puzzled look after I took this photo!

I'd actually been feeling a little under-the-weather all weekend, but I couldn't leave without witnessing the mooncake-eating competition. There were two contests: kids had to eat two whole mooncakes; adults had to eat four.

Now as I've said before, mooncakes are extravagant mouthfuls. And after watching these contestants struggle, I really was glad I didn't enter. I would've failed miserably (and eaten a weeks worth of calories in the process).

There were six kids in the final line-up, including two kids who spontaneously jumped up on stage after a last-minute plea for more participants. A chubby white kid was the odds-on favourite but after his first few tastes of mooncake, he actually gave up (I think he thought it might be like chocolate cake, poor kid). Two boys and three girls (all Asian and familiar with mooncake) battled it out with the skinniest and smallest girl on stage (one of the last-minute volunteers) becoming the eventual winner (pictured far right below).

The adults also took a painful amount of time to consume their mooncakes. Five minutes is a long time when you're watching people in pain. Eyes rolled, cheeks bulged, and deep breaths were taken as they slowly chomped their way through mooncake gluttony. You'd think they could just Pac-Man their portions down like Sonya Thomas would. But it was slow and almost painful to watch.

Eventually a Chinese man emerged triumphant. I was already feeling ill for them.

I missed out on the noodle-eating competition but it had been a fun day out nevertheless. And I've already bookmarked a couple of noodle houses I need to "research".

Now... mooncake anyone?

The Cabramatta Moon Festival was held on 11 September 2005. This annual event is hosted by Fairfield City Council and celebrates the Mid-August Moon Festival.

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Snowskin mooncakes and the Chinese Moon Festival
4 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 9/17/2005 11:59:00 pm


  • At 9/18/2005 3:16 pm, Blogger FooDcrazEE said…

    Not after that. No more mooncake. I have enough for the year. i usually only eats max of 1/4 of a mooncake and dats it. This year i had 4 whole mooncake in 2 mths time. definitely too m uch. *chuckle*

  • At 9/18/2005 9:04 pm, Blogger Kelly said…

    Ten lions! How cool!

    The mooncake eating contest sounds hilarious. I can just imagine the little white kid's disappointment as he tasted his first mooncake...

  • At 9/17/2007 4:13 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Man, the noodle eating competition would've been easy to win. Mooncake would've been horrible. I realised, when watching the people in the noodle eating competition in 2006 (ah yes, a long time after this 2005 one) that the fatter adults ate rather slow, so too did the skinny winner. Surprising, everybody got a prize for participating.

  • At 9/17/2007 9:26 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Kumi - I think that competitive eating is a lot harder than it looks :) I know that I start to feel a little ill after 1/4 of a mooncake, let alone a giant bowl of noodles eaten with frenzied panic!


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