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The standard name for moon cakes in Chinese is 月餅. In Thailand they are called ขนมเปีย or roughly ‘khanom pia’. The first element is a general word for baked goods, so the operative term is ‘pia’ with middle tone. I recently learned that in Vietnamese they are called something similar – bánh pía, with the first element again meaning cake.

I am wondering now if there is some alternative name for moon cakes that is the source of this ‘pia’ in Thai and Vietnamese. It might come from some southern language like chaozhouhua, since the huaqiao communities in Southeast Asia mainly have their roots in the South. Does anyone know?

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Note that "bánh pía" is not considered moon cake by Vietnamese, and they are sold year round. Mooncake in Vietnam is only sold in the months prior to Mid-Autumn festival, and they are of the popular baked variant or snow skin mooncake. –  nhahtdh Jul 27 at 10:26

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

According to the Wikipedia article on bánh pía, which cites this source, pía comes from from the Teochew dialect (i.e., Chaozhouhua 潮州話):

The Vietnamese name comes from the Theochew word for pastry, "pia"

While I wouldn't necessarily consider this source to be authoritative, I looked up the Teochew pronunciation of 餅 here, and it is indeed pĩã so the derivation is likely to be true.

I don't know the connection between the Vietnamese and Thai "pia", but it's likely they're related too. It would seem then that the Vietnamese and Thai names both end up literally meaning "pastry-pastry".

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Quite sensible. There are lots of Teochew migrants in Thailand. In my hometown dialect (also a Min dialect), 饼 is piang, and vowel+ng seems to become nasal vowels and then oral vowels in Teochew. Most Thai fast-food restaurant in the US has a dish called 'pad see-you', and it was the only dish I could guess the meaning when I was first reading the menu. `See you' is very close to what soya-sauce sounds like in my hometown dialect and indeed, that dish contains a lot of soya sauce! –  user58955 Mar 21 at 19:14
    
@user58955 That's a great example. The Wikipedia article for the dish also indicates that it comes from the Teochew word for soy sauce. I don't know Teochew, but Cantonese uses a similar word for soy sauce: 豉油 (sih yàuh). –  Claw Mar 21 at 19:23
    
I think it could be derived from Hokkien too as 饼 means piah in Hokkien. Example popiah or 薄饼. –  Question Overflow Mar 22 at 2:49
    
Spring rolls are called ปอเปียะ /pɔː pia/ in Thai too. –  neubau Mar 22 at 4:02
    
I bought these Vietnamese moon cakes at the Saigon airport. They are a local product from Sóc Trăng, a town in the Mekong Delta. Generally this area was settled late by both Vietnamese and Chinese, including some Ming loyalists. See the wikipedia entry on Mạc Cửu or 鄚玖 about this. –  neubau Mar 22 at 4:02

In some areas of China, 中秋餅 (Mid-Autumn Cake) is used to refer to moon cakes.

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