Mid-Autumn Festival: To Gather with Food and the Moon


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Stop here with a cup of tea, read what I think, sip some Chinese culture knowledge, perhaps…makes your life change.

                                                                                                                                    -by Hsiao-Yu Liao


What comes into your mind when you hear about the Mid-Autumn Festival?  For the Chinese, of course, it would be a scenario of a whole family or friends gathering together, having the moon cakes, and chatting warmly under the roundest moon.

The Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节 (Zhōng qiū jié), or the Moon Festival, is one of the most important Chinese cultural festivals.  This day, family members residing away from home would come back and celebrate this thousand-year festival together.  Up in the sky, the round moon 圆月 (yuán yuè) is there symbolizing the family reunion 团圆 (tuányuán); as for the food, Chinese people take moon cakes 月饼 (yuèbǐng) and pomelo 柚子 (yòuzi) as representatives of the day for their round shape.

Moon cakes 月饼 (yuèbǐng) are round or rectangular handful-sized stuffed pastries. Over the centuries, Chinese people have invented many different kinds of moon cakes depending on the fillings and crusts.  For instance, there are Beijing-style moon cakes 京式月饼 (Jīng shì yuèbǐng), Cantonese-style moon cakes 广式月饼 (Guǎng shì yuèbǐng), Suzhou-style moon cakes 苏式月饼 (Sū shì yuèbǐng), Teochew (Chaoshan)-style moon cakes 潮州月饼 (Cháozhōu yuèbǐng), and Taiwanese-style moon cakes 台式月饼 (Táishì yuèbǐng).

Cantonese-style moon cake 广式月饼 (Guǎng shì yuèbǐng) is the most popular one, famous for its oil and chewy thin crust with various fillings such as lotus seed paste 莲蓉馅 (lián róng xiàn), chicken 鸡肉 (jīròu), roasted pork 叉烧 (chāshāo), egg yolks 蛋黄 (dànhuáng), etc.  Suzhou-style moon cake 苏式月饼 (Sū shì yuèbǐng) is known for its layers of flaky dough with sweet taro paste 芋头馅 (yùtou xiàn) and other salty fillings.  Influenced by other culture, you can now find exotic fillings like chocolate, ice cream or mochi in your moon cakes.

Just like how the Chinese created the moon cake, various ways of gathering for the Moon Festival have also been created.  In Taiwan, for example, people like to have  a barbecue 烤肉 (kǎoròu) or hot pot 火锅 (huǒguō) together with moon cakes for dessert and pomelos for fruit.  Surrounded by the full moon, every year people reunite together on this day, sharing delicious food.  Chinese culture is then inherited for good.

hot pot moon cakes as gift moon cakes

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