Traditional Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节, zhōngqiū jié) fare includes mooncakes, of course, but what other dishes are common at gatherings? Here are 9 of those traditional Mid-Autumn festival foods.
Since I was raised without knowing much about the holiday’s customs, I think it would be fun to learn more about them and pass them on to you. The results of the study are unexpected in a way.
Most of the traditional dishes served during the Mid-Autumn Festival have nothing to do with the usual suspects of chicken, pork, or fish. Similar to Thanksgiving in that regard!
BEVERAGES AND DISHES FOR THE MID-AUTUMN FESTIVALS
It is traditional Chinese practice to select dishes based on how such words or phrases are pronounced in the local dialect.
Pomelo, in English, translates to the Chinese word yuzi. It’s pronounced similarly to the Chinese blessing “yuzi,” which means “guard the children/descendants.” If you’re interested in puns, keep reading!
Do not forget that customs in various parts of the world vary greatly from one another. No Mid-Autumn Festival ritual explores the same flavors as another, just as no single Chinese New Year banquet is the same or the de facto official menu. This is a suggestion.
1. MOON CAKES
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, mooncakes are served, and they are arguably the most well-known of all festival treats. They represent the moon and the bonds of family. As the moon is at its fullest during the mid-autumn festival, peaceful, cheerful, and wholesome times are shared by all families with mooncakes in hand.
The best mooncakes are the ones you make yourself, not the ones you buy in a store. Mooncakes stored in plastic for months on end won’t compare to anything you’ve just baked.
It’s also ridiculous to charge $10 USD for a single mooncake (not a box’s worth) in the United States. Just make your own mooncakes if you and your loved ones enjoy them so much.
Which begs the question: why not duck? In the local dialect, the ruler’s name was pronounced similarly to “duck,” so the story goes, and the people banded together to overthrow him. Thus, the expression “to eat a duck” means to destroy an oppressor.
Traditional Chinese medicine suggests that eating duck in the autumn is beneficial for your health. It provides the necessary nutrients to help your body weather the dryness of autumn and winter. A duck and taro soup is a common choice on this occasion.
I’ll have to come up with a recipe for it, but in the meantime, our family is quite fond of Braised Duck with Taro, Sour Plum Duck, Roasted Braised Duck, and Easy Peking Duck.
I’ve already stated that the autumn harvest of pomelos is meant to symbolize good fortune for one’s offspring.
On a fruit buffet for guests or family, pomelos will stand out and be a hit.
4. BUFFALO NUT
Whether you know it as water caltrop, bat nut, or buffalo nut, it’s a quirky ingredient. The buffalo nut may have a sinister appearance, yet it is eaten by parents who want their children to be creative thinkers.
In the fall, muddy fields are scoured for the buffalo nut. To prepare them for consumption, either boil them in salted water or consume them raw. Braised dishes, such as our Pork Belly with Arrowroot recipe, are another great application for them.
5. WALNUTS & PEANUTS
Nuts and seeds, especially those that are spherical and auspicious, are popular snacks at Chinese parties. This is especially true of walnuts and peanuts.
Commonly women, these people can hold a conversation while simultaneously eating a handful of nuts or seeds. The two are completely independent of one another. A mound of empty shells is all that remains.
However, Chinese Boiled Peanuts are also a favorite of ours, even if nothing beats a traditional entire roasted and salted peanut.
6. EDAMAME AND SMALL TARO
It’s a custom from the southern part of China. They’re both commonly consumed as snacks after being boiled. Taro means “the coming of good fortune” in the regional Southern dialect. Praise and pleasant news are sounded out in edamame.
A further item from Bill’s relatives’ region! Although crab is best in the fall, this Southern twist on a Mid-Autumn Festival meal is not as traditional.
They’re packed with flesh and that roe that everyone loves. You can’t go wrong with some Cantonese-style scallion-and-ginger crab and a cold one while watching the moonlight with the family.
8. LOTUS ROOT
The name, shape, and feel of lotus root are all rife with omens of good fortune. First, its Chinese name literally translates to “togetherness” (lián) and “pair” (u) when written in Chinese characters.
The lotus root, like bamboo, expands in successive segments, which symbolizes the opening of new doors. If you’re familiar with lotus root, you know it has a fine, fibrous thread like the strands in okra. It symbolizes how connected two people are when these threads are difficult to break.
Nothing, not even puns, and wordplay, can go wrong with serving lotus root, especially this crispy-packed variety.
The word “pear” is pronounced differently depending on how the meaning is intended. No one in my family was ever allowed to share a pear since it was thought to be a sign of impending divorce. I still can’t bring myself to share when I buy a large pear that I know I won’t be able to finish in one sitting. Usually, I just chop it up and throw it in the mix when I’m cooking.
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, pears are eaten to undo or prevent any separations that may have occurred unintentionally. A mooncake is meant to be shared, but pears should never be split.