Food plays an important role in most Chinese holidays and celebrations, and Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the biggies. With a history dating back thousands of years as a harvest festival to show gratitude to the moon god, today the Mid-Autumn Festival can best be compared to Thanksgiving in Canada or the US, where families and friends come together to give thanks over good food. The holiday itself may be only one night – technically during the full moon on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar – but the festival-like atmosphere in Hong Kong begins in the weeks before and concludes with a public holiday on the following day (this year, it’s Friday, 16 September).
Lanterns are the most well-known symbols of Mid-Autumn Festival, but mooncakes come a close second. These dense, rich pastries, traditionally filled with red bean or lotus seed paste with the optional addition of salted duck egg yolk, are made in their thousands each year, with each baker trying to outdo the next in terms of creative fillings and packaging (here at Foodie, we’ve already gobbled our way through stacks of the stuff, with lots more to sample and gift to loved ones). In addition to the classic mooncakes, there are more experimental varieties made of chocolate (Pierre Hermé’s divine almond and hazelnut pralines take the cake for us) and ice cream (Häagen-Daz is the leader here) or, our personal fave, snow-skin mooncakes, lighter, non-baked treats with a texture similar to mochi, served cold. This year, Kowloon Shangri-La have launched an exquisite red bean and green tea snow-skin mooncake that’s delicate yet packed with flavour.
Image credit: misterbijou.blogspot.hk
In days gone by, those revellers who couldn’t afford mooncakes ate pumpkin instead. Legend has it that a poor young girl fed her sick parents pumpkin and they were miraculously cured – hence the pumpkin becoming a Mid-Autumn Festival symbol for health and prosperity. You can get your pumpkin fix here in Hong Kong with a heartwarming slice of pumpkin pie courtesy of Tai Tai Pie Pies.
Image credit: Danielle Scott
Hairy crab season coincides with Mid-Autumn Festival, and these wee prized crustaceans are the perfect food to get stuck into with family and friends. The creamy, luxurious bright-orange-hued roe is notoriously difficult to extract, but boy, does the hard work pay off. At the InterContinental Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Yan Toh Heen, Executive Chef Lai Yiu Fai has teamed up with Chef Wang Ho from Shanghai – the hairy crab’s homeland – to showcase a hairy crab feast fit for a king; you’ll have to wait until 14 October to sample the eight-course menu, which is priced at $2,488 per person and will be available until 10 December 2016.
Image credit: Kevin Fai
For those more inclined to a liquid lunch or dinner, wine fermented with fragrant osmanthus flowers, whose bloom peaks during the festival season, is a popular bevvy. Or, for something a bit out of the ordinary, head to glam modern Chinese eatery Mott 32 for some of their signature osmanthus-flavoured cocktails. We’re partial to the On Leong Tea, crafted with rum, osmanthus and oolong teas, passion fruit and guava, a potent, tropical delight.
Image credit: Bri Weldon
Watermelon wins the award for the healthiest Mid-Autumn Festival food. Its hefty size and round shape symbolise harmony and togetherness, with the abundant seeds a fertility symbol. If you’re (dare we say it) getting just the teensiest bit tired of all those mooncakes out there or are looking for a unique gift alternative, opt for Edible Arrangements’ Mid-Autumn Watermelon Design Dipped Strawberries fresh fruit arrangement, featuring plenty of bite-sized watermelon balls.
Image credit: Tom Page