Each year as the air gets a smidgen chillier and students start trickling back from their hometowns there is a noticeable change in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The Mid-Autumn Festival, which began on September 19th this year, celebrates the harvest during the ripe, full moon. It is after the moon that one of the most beloved treats of this festival gets its name: the mooncake. This unique dessert—a must-have for many celebrating East Asian families—is just one of several other foods the harvest celebration has to offer.
This rich, palm sized cake is meant to be shared and given as a gift during this festive season. They are golden brown all around, and the top has characters etched on it in an inviting golden hue. The filling can be any number of things, from the more traditional lotus-bean filling to green tea, pineapple or red bean. To find some of these splendid little snacks in a multitude of varieties simply make your way to Chinatown, in Manhattan or Brooklyn, and find a bakery. Fay Da Bakery is great because it has multiple locations, even one near the NYU campus on 321 Avenue of the Americas. These cakes are pricey for their size, with the larger ones coming in at around $7, the smaller around $4, but seasonal treats are worth the splurge. Even smaller ones can be found at other bakeries for around $1.
A Chinese friend of mine was telling me about the foods her mother deemed essential for celebrating. One of those things is duck, much more succulent than chicken. Peking duck is the most common preparation of this bird. You can find them hanging in windows, dripping with delicious duck fat, like at Yee Li Restaurant. If prepared correctly, the skin comes to a golden brown crisp. If you are looking for a more upscale dining experience, the Peking Duck House has been newly renovated for your pecking duck eating pleasure. Duck is available in soups and dumplings at various restaurants in this area as well.
This root vegetable is another celebratory essential. White in its raw state, this vegetable can be found as an ingredient in savory dishes or as the star of the dish. Buddha Bodi is well known for their imitation meats, and one can find taro used there to make vegetarian dishes such as Taro Duck or Fish. Taro can also be used in sweet preparations like pastries. Another popular sweet use is in bubble teas. The purple bubble tea that you may have spotted someone holding outside of ViVi Bubble tea is most likely taro flavored. So the next time you need your fix of bubble tea be adventurous and drop the black milk tea for something more exotic.