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A Bite of Two Cultures: How a savory recipe's reviving a food from Tucson's immigrant history

Chef Feng Feng Yeh's tradition mooncakes celebrate Mid Autumn Festival and use of Chinese Chorizo infused with Mexican spices
Posted at 7:53 AM, Oct 03, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) -- — "Working side by side and king of building community together and sharing sentiments of 'let's build a better community together.'"

Chef Feng Feng Yeh is celebrating Mid Autumn Festival with an ingredient that blends the Hispanic heritage of Tucson with an immigrant group you may not realize has had a major impact on our city.

In fact during the 20th century there were over 100 Chinese grocery stores that opened in South Tucson. Those stores would turn scrap meat into a new kind of chorizo infused with Mexican spices. Brooke Chau walked us through some of that history a few weeks ago on Good Morning Tucson, but I wanted to try this blend of Mexican and Chinese flavors for myself.

I met Chef Feng Feng Yeh west of Oracle on Prince where she would employ Chinese chorizo in a traditional savory moon cake.

She laid out the key ingredients:

For the Meat Filling:

  • 1 pound (450g) Chinese-style chorizo
  • 1 finely chopped scallion

For the Soft Dough:

  • 2¼ cups (290g) all-purpose  Sonoran White wheat flour (we used Hayden Flour Mills, the oldest flour mill in AZ!)
  • 2½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup lard (or vegetable shortening)
  • 1/2 cup water (120 ml)

For the Pastry Dough:

  • 1½ cups (195g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup lard (or vegetable shortening)

For Assembling the Mooncakes:

  • 1 egg (for egg wash)
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Time to put on the gloves and get to work, a task Chef Yeh said she greatly appreciated.

"Thanks for being very ambitious by learning how to do pastry," she said, "because it's not for the faint of heart."

We're going to use two types of dough. The first incorporates another piece of Southern Arizona's culinary milieu, Sonoran white wheat.

We then use a rolling pin to shape the dumplings.

"What my mom told me when we make dumplings is like, if you want to just use your rolling pin and kind of go like this, so that it's rounded, and you kind of turn it like that."

Take a look at the video above to see how Yeh suggests rolling out your dough.

The second dough we use has more lard in it. We put it in our hands and cup it to close it. We start to fold in layers.

"What we're doing is we're creating these like flaky layers so it's gonna taste kind of like a a more dense croissant."

The next step is to roll out the dough to keep a thicker center and hold in the chorizo and green onion mix.

Once that mix is in, we close the dumplings, apply egg wash, sprinkle some black sesame seeds, and then throw our dumplings in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

"On the spice spectrum, I love it! That's totally approachable spice."

If you'd like to try Chinese chorizo for yourself, Yeh says you can find it all month long at the Five Points Market.

The recipe yields 24 mooncakes.

Preparation Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes

  • Prepare the Chinese Chorzo Filling:
    • Mix the finely chopped scallion into the Chinese-style chorizo. Avoid overmixing to prevent the filling from becoming rubbery. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Make the Soft Dough:
    • In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and lard. Mix until well combined
    • Slowly add water in 3-4 batches and knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball
    • Set the soft dough aside, covering it with a damp cloth. Ensure the dough is not too dry; it should not crack when pressed flat
  • Prepare the Pastry Dough:
    • Combine flour and lard for the pastry dough, kneading until it forms a dough ball
    • Cover the pastry dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes
  • Assemble the Mooncakes:
    • Divide both the soft and pastry dough into 24 equal pieces, resulting in a total of 48 portions
    • Roll each portion into a ball, ensuring they are covered with a damp paper towel to prevent drying out
    • Take one piece of soft dough, flatten it into a small disc, and place a piece of pastry dough in the center. Seal it closed and use your palms to flatten it
    • Roll it into a long oval shape, then shape it into a cigar shape. Roll the cigar out lengthwise into a longer rope, and then roll it into a tight, short bundle
    • Stand the bundle up and press it flat. Roll it out into a 3½-inch disc, slightly thinner around the edges and thicker in the middle
    • Add approximately one tablespoon (about 20 grams) of the Chinese-style chorizo filling to the center and seal tightly. Be cautious not to overfill
    • Gently press the dough to shape it into a flat mooncake shape. Place it on a baking sheet seam side down. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, using two baking sheets for 24 mooncakes
  • Baking:
    • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and position the rack in the middle of the oven
    • Brush each mooncake with an egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top
    • Bake each pan of mooncakes for 25 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown