When it comes to Fall, everyone knows the seasonal staple dishes: apple pie, pumpkin spice everything, casseroles, etc. While I grew up eating a lot of these foods, my family would also eat a lot of dishes that weren’t seen in your typical restaurant or grocery store. Many of them were traditional Vietnamese or Chinese dishes or drinks that my parents would make from scratch, or buy specially-made from an Asian grocer. However, these foods share the same warmth and coziness that many familiar Fall favorites have. If you’re looking to try something new this season, here are some Asian seasonal dishes worth buying or even cooking:
During the Fall, specifically the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (which this year was September 13), many Chinese and Vietnamese families celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. The holiday, which started centuries ago during the Shang dynasty, is meant to celebrate family coming together, the “harvest” and the moon, thus mooncakes. If you have never had a mooncake, they are dense pastries with fillings such as lotus seed paste, red bean paste, dried fruits, as well as the signature salted egg yolk. The taste is a combination of both savory and sweet and might take some time getting used to. I would recommend buying them from an Asian grocery store, such as H-Mart in Edison or Asian Food Market in Piscataway.
- Chinese Pork Soup
This soup is similar to a casserole in the sense that it can be made in a lot of different ways, depending on what ingredients are in your pantry. The staple ingredients in the dish are pork, some type of noodles, broth and soy sauce. My family personally sometimes would add carrots, bok choy, and potatoes to the soup. No matter what ingredients you choose to add, this dish is sure to be hearty and filling, perfect for fall. If you want to put your cooking skills to the test, the recipe I recommend using is the one from Taste of Home.
- Banh Cốm (green rice cake)
In Vietnam, Autumn is considered rice season because that is when most rice is harvested. One specific type of rice popular in the fall is Cốm, or green rice that is immature and needs to be roasted over low heat to be eaten. A dessert that I absolutely love to eat, especially once the cooler months roll in, is banh cốm, which is made from green rice and mung bean. The rice, which is glutinous and sticky in texture, is wrapped around the mung bean paste to make this sweet dish. While there are definitely recipes you can follow to make it, like the one above, I would recommend buying the dessert from a Vietnamese restaurant.
I love pumpkin spice and maple pecan as much as anyone, but at the end of the day, these foods are the comfort dishes that remind me most of Fall. While many of these foods are an acquired taste and aren’t for everyone, it’s worth looking into something new this season. Who knows, maybe one of these dishes will make its way into your list of Fall staple dishes!