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Mid-Autumn Munch

Epicuriousity
Mid-Autumn Munch

With the Mid-Autumn Festival, ‘round’ is the name of the game. Here are some festive foods to fill up ‘em tummies


It goes by many names … Mid-Autumn Festival, Mooncake Festival, Harvest Moon Festival, Lantern Festival. Whatever one chooses to call it, the essence of the festival (celebrated on September 13 this year) remains the same.

Most common among Chinese and Vietnamese communities around the world, the festival – believed to have been celebrated since the early Tang dynasty – marks the season to get together with family and give thanks, blessings and just partake in glorious feasting.

And that’s cue for us foodie Malaysians to come together and dig in, so here’s a list of Mid-Autumn Festival must-eats!


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Mooncake

Perhaps the most well known food out of all the dishes of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the mooncake is always prominently displayed as the festival day inches closer.

Mooncakes have a thin, tender skin that covers a dense and usually sweet filling. While the traditional fillings include lotus seed paste, red bean paste and egg yolk, more modern flavours have been experimented with – and that includes chocolate, green tea, ice cream-filled, and even durian!


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Duck

Duck is the second most popular Mid-Autumn Festival food among the Chinese community after mooncake. Ducks tend to be ‘meatier’ in autumn, and also helps remove heat from the body, as a consequence aids in restoring the balance of ying and yang.

The most common duck dish is fried duck with ginger. Other duck dishes based on regional preference in China such as smoke-baked duck are also quite popular.


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Pumpkin

It is said that the tradition of eating pumpkin during the Mid Autumn Festival started back in the day in China when the less fortunate couldn’t really afford mooncakes.

A combination of pumpkin season being around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival as well as the round shape and golden colouration of the vegetable play into Chinese beliefs of fortune and prosperity, and as such pumpkins and pumpkin-related dishes are a must.


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River Snails

While mainly considered a Cantonese preference, River Snails are still considered an indispensable part of the Mid-Autumn Festival’s fare and are normally cooked with various herbs in order to mask or otherwise remove the unpleasant odour.

Not only are they plentiful this time of the year, eating these river creatures is also said to bring about health benefits such as brightening the eyes.


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Taro

Ripening around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival, taro is greatly loved for its fresh and soft texture and is believed to dispel bad luck and attract good luck and wealth.

Normally steamed and peeled, taro can also be added to a number of dishes – or be used in a dish where it is a primary ingredient such as deep-fried sugared taro.


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Hairy Crab

Hairy crabs, popular in regions such as southern China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, are in season only during this time of the year, which makes them a favourite. Smaller in size with richer crab flavours, these crabs are also one of the simplest dishes to cook – requiring a thorough scrubbing before being steamed for 10 minutes.

Traditionally, the crabs are served with warming foods such as ginger or a dipping sauce made from vinegar and ginger slivers to balance out the yin (cold) aspects of the food.


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Pomelo

The pomelo is one of the main foods of the mid-autumn moon festival due to its round shape and flavour. As it’s considered to be a favourite fruit of the Moon Goddess, it’s offered to the moon in hopes of being blessed with good fortune, happiness and health.

Usually part of the feast, along with mooncakes and other delicacies, the large, sweet and juicy citrus also works as a potent palate cleanser.


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Lotus Roots

One of the most beloved vegetables in Asia (especially in Chinese cooking), the lotus root is the stem of the lotus plant, and is rich in fibre and essential nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium. It has a crunchy texture when stir-fried, and soft, almost potato-like, when boiled.

Though the lotus roots are available year round, they’re usually harvested during the mid autumn season. In order to prepare the root for cooking, you’ll need to peel the skin, cut it into smaller pieces, rinse, and then soak them in water that contains some vinegar or lemon juice for about 10 minutes; this would help get rid of impurities, the mild bitterness and prevent discoloration.

 

 

Photos © iStock by Getty Images

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