Mid-autumn meal is lavish
> BY GAIL JOHNSON
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.