Food plays an essential role in Chinese culture and tradition, which is why we now see everyone and their grandmothers lining up to buy their favorite mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
But other than these decadent delights, the Chinese have more delicious dishes up their sleeve. Here are seven popular dishes to prepare for your Mid-Autumn Festival feast:
1. Duck (鸭子, yā zi)
Aside from mooncakes, duck has become one of the most popular dishes to eat during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Apparently, this is because of a name coincidence that the Chinese couldn’t resist. During the 14th century, the Han people were under the brutal rule of the Mongolians, whom they had then called Dazi (鞑子) — similar to ya zi or duck in Chinese. Since the Han were planning a secret uprising, they made sure to use coded message “Eat the duck during the Mid-Autumn Festival” to spread their plans of overthrowing the Mongols.
Since then, the Chinese have kept the custom of eating duck dishes during the Mid-Autumn Festival alive to this very day.
2. Pumpkin (南瓜, nán guā)
Not all families could afford to eat mooncakes during ancient times. Most often enough, they would choose to eat pumpkins instead to usher in good health for their loved ones.
According to legend, a poor old couple once lived with their daughter at the foot of South Mountain. Because of a lack of food and proper clothes, the old couple became very sickly. However, one day, the daughter found an oval-shaped melon while working on the fields of the mountain and cooked it for her parents to eat. Miraculously, the old couple recovered and regained their health.
Because of this, it became very popular to eat “southern melons” or nangua (南瓜) to be healthy.
3. Taro (芋头 yù tóu)
Eating taro during the Mid-Autumn Festival is a tradition that dates back to the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912).
The practice started because the Chinese word for taro 芋头 (yù tóu) sounds very similar to 余头 (yú tóu), which means “good luck” or “surplus.” For this reason, it became a custom to eat taro to dispel any bad luck and bring in good fortune and wealth for the year.
4. River Snails (螺蛳, luó sī)
In Southern China, particularly in Guangzhou, eating river snails is a must-do for the Mid-Autumn Festival. They are, after all, best eaten during the autumn season, when the meat of the snails is fat and juicy.
Aside from its delectable flavors, eating river snails is also believed to bring in a good harvest, drive away bad luck, and brighten your eyes.
5. Hairy Crab (螃蟹, páng xiè)
Hairy crabs are a delicious delicacy that you shouldn’t miss out on! While crabs don’t particularly bring in good fortune or luck, many agree that their mouthwatering flavors can surely make up for it. Of course, the best time to eat hairy crabs is during the autumn harvest season, just when they’re getting ready to lay their eggs.
Having observed this early on, the Chinese began adding hairy crabs into their Mid-Autumn feasts in the late 14th century. If you can manage to get your hands on some, there’s no reason for why you shouldn’t do the same today!
6. Pomelo (柚子, yòu zi)
This round fruit shares a shape with the moon, which makes it an excellent offering to the moon goddess Chang’E! Aside from that, the Chinese name for pomelos is also considered to be a homophone for the phrase “a blessing for the son” (佑子, yòuzǐ). Offering pomelos to the moon goddess is basically the perfect way of asking for blessings of good fortune and happiness.
7. Lotus Roots (莲藕, lián ǒu)
It’s hard to find food luckier than lotus root! From its name to its texture to its very shape, everything about this crop screams auspiciousness and good fortune.
Its name, for example, sounds very similar to the Chinese words for “togetherness” (连, lián) and “pair” (偶, ǒu). This makes it very ideal for the dish to be served to family and couples. Continuing along that line of thought, lotus roots are also made of okra-like fibrous threads that are difficult to break apart, calling to mind the concepts of inseparability and unity.
Lastly, the shape of the lotus root itself is similar to bamboo, in that the crop grows in sections. According to Chinese interpretation, this form is symbolic of new opportunities.
Still looking to assemble your Mid-Autumn Feast? Check out our article on where to order your pandemic mooncakes now!