The Mid-autumn Festival is almost here! It falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month when most Chinese farmers finish reaping their harvest. To ensure you properly enjoy the wonderful and uniquely Chinese flavors of this holiday, we are here to share 5 traditional foods Chinese people enjoy around the Mid-autumn Festival.
Nobody will neglect mooncakes when we talk about the Mid-autumn Festival. Mooncakes are named after the shape of the mid-autumn moon, which is a full moon. Famous foodie and poet, Su Shi from Song dynasty wrote, “bite a moon-like cake and taste the buttered and sugared stuffing.” The manufacturing techniques haven’t changed although the ingredients are more attractive. Wuren (五仁, wǔ rén) flavor is one of the most common and traditional types. It literally means five kinds of nuts or kernels such as walnut kernels, almonds, sesame seeds, melon seeds, smashed red beans and so on. My favorite is salted egg yolk mooncake, a typical Cantonese-style mooncake made of fresh lotus seed paste and gold-like salted egg yolk. Nowadays, advanced businesses such as Yuanzu have developed new flavors and textures. For example, snow skin mooncakes with ice cream inside. Give it a try and you will be surprised!
The fall is the best season to enjoy crabs! Full of meat and roe, it is a highlight of the Mid-autumn Festival reunion dinner. The best hairy crabs are those from Yang Cheng Lake. Selected, weighed and labeled, each genuine crab is worth rushing to buy. Snap off its legs, break off its shell with your thumbs and fingers, eat the meat along with a sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ginger and sesame oil and enjoy it with a sip of liquor. Don’t forget the roe! Mix it with steamed rice and savor the enchanting tastes!
Osmanthus Liquor and Osmanthus Cake
Now let’s have a look at desserts and drinks! Osmanthus has small yellow blooms that send out strong fragrance around the Mid-autumn Festival. In order to collect and conserve the sweetness, Chinese people put osmanthus into embroidered sachets to enjoy its fragrance, and also use it to make tea, make-up powder, and most importantly, liquor and desserts. When the autumn breeze brings coolness, drinking warm osmanthus liquor with goji and hawberry helps promote your appetite for the big family meal. As for osmanthus cakes, some are pasty while others are jelly-like.
Pomegranates and Pomelos
Fruits also play an important role. Since the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian returned from central Asia with pomegranates, Chinese people have taken a strong liking to them. The ancient Chinese were obsessed with picking “lucky words” from phonograms. The large number of seeds (籽, zǐ ) of pomegranate fruit was understood to indicate a large number of children (子，zǐ ) to be born in this family, which was expected by every family when the death and sickness of minors was unavoidable. Besides, the round-shape and attractive color also signifies unification and happiness. Therefore, Chinese people have put the image of pomegranate into various items for daily use to wish countless offspring in a harmonious family. Because pomegranates grow ripe around mid-autumn, sweet and refreshing pomegranates are often to be served on trays after a big family meal. Similarly, pomelo (柚子, yòu zi) sounds identically to distant children (游子，yóu zǐ) or blessings for children (佑子，yòu zǐ) and thus are harvested and enjoyed around Mid-autumn Festival.
Look at the silver moon! Let us wish our families and friends live long and fortunate lives! Though miles apart, we’ll share the beauty she displays.
Written by Miko Jiang