While in Europe and the United States Summer is the ultimate BBQ season, in Taiwan it is not. In Taiwan Fall is the PERFECT season for BBQ. The weather is very comfortable, it is definitely not too hot anymore, and it does not rain a lot.
Not only is Fall the perfect BBQ season because of the weather, it is also a perfect match because of an age-old tradtion: Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival, or in Chinese 中秋節. (zhōngqiūjié).
Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month on the Lunar Calendar. This year (2021) that day falls on 21 September. It is a festival made to thank the gods for the harvest, during the period in the year when the moon is brightest. It is also a festival that celebrates different lunar legends.
Many many years ago Ancient Emperors worshipped the moon to thank it for the harvest.
There are many variations on the three famous Moon Festival Legends. One of the three legends is that an excellent archer called Houyi falls in love with Chang'e, a beautiful woman in his village. In that period there are ten suns in the sky. Houyi shoots down nine suns and as a reward receives an elixir (or pill) which would make him immortal. The elixir would only be enough for one person and Houyi and Chang'e didn't want to live without each other, so they decided not to use it. But one day someone tried to steal the elixir when Houyi was not home. In order to save the elixir Chang'e drank it. Chang'e flies higher and higher until she stops on the moon where she becomes the moon goddess. All alone Houyi missed his wife so much that he prepared a table of food and looked for the shape of his wife in the moon. Every year when the moon is at its brightest he and the villagers would come together to look for Chang'e and worship her.
As most festivals in Taiwan and Asia, this festival too has its own special foods and traditions. This particular holiday is a holiday that celebrates family and being together. That is why a lot of the foods eaten during Moon festival have a round shape. In Taiwanese culture a round shape symbolizes reunion and completeness.
BBQ on the street
In Taipei most people live in a small apartment without garden. Because of that a lot of people go out on the streets to barbecue. They take their typical red plastic stools, a couple of small charcoal grills and their drink cooler and put it in front of the apartment building or in some cases house. People squat down on the road to have their meal on a paper plate and every now and then you'll see a cockroach rush by. If you are really lucky you even spot a rat.
Some of the things you can prepare on the grill include baby corn, king oyster mushrooms, beef, clams, fish coated in salt and Taiwan's famous sweet garlic sausages. If you are in Taiwan I truly hope you make Taiwanese friends who invite you to celebrate this amazing holiday with you!
This particular festival can't be celebrated without the traditional Mooncakes.
In Taiwan people only eat this in September or October, which makes them even more special! The most famous traditional filling is lotus paste with one to four duck egg yolks embedded within. Nowadays you can get many different flavors like red bean paste, ice cream or green tea.
One of the most important fruits in Taiwan is pomelo. It is believed to bring good luck and once again, it has a round shape which is associated with reunion. In the past people made pomelo hats from the peel. It was believed that wearing a pomelo hat brings good fortune. Nowadays it is just a fun activity for the kids.
In this picture you can see my small dog wearing a pomelo hat. He likes it just as much as most kids!