Mid Autumn Festival, where Chinese people will celebrate the full moon on the 15th day of the 8th month on the Lunar Calendar, happens to fall on September 15th this year. There are a lot of different ways to celebrate this great holiday, such as gathering with friends and family, worshipping the moon, praying and looking a pretty lanterns.
But Mid Autumn Festival also celebrates harvest, so food is really important for this next week. Here are the top 10 Mid Autumn Festival foods you have to eat.
Obviously the most iconic food associated with Mid Autumn festival is Mooncakes. They are really only available around this time of year so you have to get them while you can. The pastry skin is thick and the filling can be a variety of different ingredients. These round cakes are often decorated with Chinese characters of longevity and can be filled with red bean paste, fruit, egg yolk, nuts, or lotus seed paste. Each region has their own version with different types of crusts and fillings, but today there are even contemporary versions where the paste is made from taro or pineapple and are shaped like little animals.
Hairy Crab 大闸蟹
Hairy Crab is a Shanghai specialty that is often eaten for Mid Autumn Festival because these crabs are “in season” in September and October. Around this time of the year, the crabs are getting ready to lay their eggs, which makes them the tastiest according to Chinese people. They are highly sought after because they are a rare delicacy that are high in amino acids and protein. These steamed crabs go great with ginger and vinegar at family gatherings to celebrate the holiday.
Eating Taro, the purple sweet potato, for Mid Autumn Festival dates back to the Qing Dynasty because in the Jiangsu and Zhejiang dialects of Chinese “taro” sounds like “luck is inside.” Eating taro is believed to bring you good luck and fortune during the year while expelling bad luck. Taro are typically boiled or steamed, much like a potato, pealed and eaten as a main dish.
River Snails 螺蛳
In Guangzhou, River Snails are vitally important for a proper Mid Autumn Festival feast. Snails are plentiful in southern China because of the warmer climate, tons of small rivers, and rice paddies. To dispel their unpleasant odor, they are usually cooked with Chinese medicinal herbs. Chinese people believe eating snails brightens up your eyes.
The tradition of eating pumpkin during the Mid Autumn Festival dates back to ancient China where poor people who couldn’t afford Mooncakes would eat pumpkin instead. The tradition has since been passed down many times and now people eat pumpkin on the holiday for good health. Actually, the literal English translation for Pumpkin from Chinese 南瓜 is “Southern Melon” because legend has it that a girl found a weird gourd in the Southern Mountains that she fed to her dying grandparents and saved them.
Duck is a very popular Mid Autumn Festival tradition all over China as duck tends to be richer during this time of the year. Each region prepares the duck in their own signature way. In Fujian, they cook the duck with Taro, and in Jiangsu, the signature way to prepare it is to bake and salt it, adding osmanthus. Sichuan people like smoked baked duck that is browned and salty. The classic Nanjing style is well liked by everyone because of it’s crispy skin and tender meat.
Watermelon is an essential snack for Mid Autumn Festival because of its seeds. The seeds in a watermelon symbolize fertility and the round shape symbolizes family reunion. In Shaanxi, watermelons will often be cut to be shaped life a lotus flower as a symbol of good fortune for the year.
Lotus Roots 莲藕
Lotus root harvesting falls around the time of Mid Autumn Festival every year. As the weather begins to get colder, lotus roots provide essential minerals and vitamins which help increase appetite and keep you healthy. A classic dish of steamed lotus root with glutinous rice and honey signifies a charming and happy life.
Pears are a very popular fruit to eat during Mid Autumn Festival. While we wrote in an earlier article that you shouldn’t give pears as a gift because they are homophonous with the word for “to leave,” they are eaten for similar reasons. Because they symbolize separation, you eat them in hopes of avoiding separation with your loved ones over the next year. Eating them implies you have a desire to reunite with people.
Osmanthus Wine 桂花酒
In September and October, Osmanthus flowers are in full bloom, so they are in season to add to a variety of foods and drinks. Drinking wine fermented with osmanthus flowers has been a long tradition in China over 2,000 years old. Drinking wine signifies a family reunion and a happy life.
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