Mid-au­tumn meal is lav­ish

> BY GAIL JOHN­SON

The Georgia Straight - - Food -

While many fam­i­lies are get­ting ready this week for a turkey feast to cel­e­brate Thanks­giv­ing, mem­bers of Van­cou­ver’s Chinese com­mu­nity will be mark­ing the Mid-au­tumn Fes­ti­val.

The sec­ond-grand­est fes­ti­val in China after Chinese New Year, it takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lu­nar cal­en­dar, dur­ing a full moon. This year, the Mid-au­tumn Fes­ti­val falls on Wed­nes­day (October 4).

“This is a time for fam­i­lies to hold re­unions,” An­nie Lee, spokesper­son for Western Lake Chinese Seafood Res­tau­rant (4989 Vic­to­ria Drive), tells the Straight in a down­town cof­fee shop. “The moon is the fullest and bright­est on this day, and the round shape of the moon sig­ni­fies re­union in Chinese cul­ture. Mid-au­tumn Fes­ti­val is con­sid­ered a har­vest fes­ti­val, and some peo­ple even com­pare it to Thanks­giv­ing in North Amer­i­can cul­ture.”

A lav­ish meal is a ma­jor part of the cel­e­bra­tions. Western Lake chefs Tony Mah and John Deng, both na­tives of Tais­han who spe­cial­ize in fu­sion of north­ern and south­ern Chinese cui­sine, will be pre­par­ing a 12-course feast.

The ex­trav­a­gant menu in­cludes crispy Pek­ing duck skin with crepes, duck let­tuce wraps, king-crab legs steamed with gar­lic, shred­ded­duck-meat soup with dried scal­lops, diced beef ten­der­loin with deep­fried milk puffs, tossed noo­dle with crab sauce, sautéed and deep-fried sole fil­let, baked tapi­oca pudding with taro, and, of course, moon­cake, among other dishes.

Moon­cakes, the most iconic food as­so­ci­ated with the Mid-au­tumn Fes­ti­val, are round cakes that sym­bol­ize fam­ily re­unions and best wishes, Lee says. They’re of­ten dec­o­rated with Chinese char­ac­ters rep­re­sent­ing longevity and may be filled with red-bean paste, egg yolk, nuts, fruit, or lo­tus-seed paste.

“Duck is the sec­ond-most-com­mon food after moon­cakes in the Mi­dau­tumn Fes­ti­val,” Lee says. “Duck is a pop­u­lar tra­di­tion be­cause the taste of the duck is very rich dur­ing this sea­son. Chinese peo­ple be­lieve that eat­ing duck in au­tumn can ex­pel path­o­genic heat from their body to keep the bal­ance be­tween yin and yang.”

The tra­di­tion of hav­ing taro dur­ing the fes­ti­val started dur­ing the Qing Dy­nasty. “Eat­ing taro is be­lieved to bring you good luck and for­tune dur­ing the year,” Lee says. Mean­while, ev­ery part of the crab is used in the feast, the meat be­ing prized for its sweetness and suc­cu­lence.

Western Lake’s Mid-au­tumn Fes­ti­val feast for 10 peo­ple is on special un­til Sun­day (October 8) for $668 plus tax. A smaller king-crab menu for six peo­ple is $398 plus tax.

Duck is pop­u­lar dur­ing the Mid-au­tumn Fes­ti­val be­cause it is tra­di­tion­ally be­lieved to bal­ance yin and yang in the body. Lisovskaya/is­tock photo.

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