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Being Chinese, we celebrate Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節 every year. It is always on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, promising the roundest, fullest full moon of the year. Part of the tradition is to eat mooncakes月餅, a baked pastry with fillings. The most popular versions we used to get in HK are with lotus seed paste or mixed nuts filling, plus salted egg yolk(s). Over the years, mooncakes have evolved. Bakeries have introduced other flavours of fillings such as red bean and lava custard; and some places sell a version called “snow skin” where the exterior is not baked and is made with glutinous rice flour.

Origin of Mooncakes

Do you know the origin of mooncakes? The one version that is forever stuck in my head is that it was created by rebellions in the Yuan Dynasty, who hid secret messages inside baked pastries, and distributed them to plan a revolt to overthrow the ruling Mongols, leading to the fall of Yuan and the rise of Ming Dynasty.

Buying Mooncakes in Vancouver

This year, Mid Autumn Festival lands on September 21, 2021. If you are interested in making your own mooncakes, check out Mama Lam’s recipe for Baked Chinese Mooncake with Salted Egg Yolk Custard Filling that I shared last year. Otherwise, if you are looking to support local businesses and buy some at a store, here are some ideas for you.

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Dine Out Vancouver is back and reimagined! Running from February 5 to March 7, 2021, 366 restaurants are offering prix fixe menus for dine-in or take-out priced between $15 and $54. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the past year has been tough for the restaurant industry. I was glad to see the return of the iconic food festival, while it’s made some adjustments to accommodate the current situation. For one, the festival has been extended to run for 31 days, to allow more opportunities for diners to participate while restaurants are offering lower capacity and limited seating. Also, there’s flexibility in how each restaurant prices their menu so it’s no longer just the 3-4 price points in the past.

Even though the festival is well underway, restaurants are still open for reservations and there’s always room to accept take-out orders. I took the time to review the menus and here are what caught my eyes, based on past experiences (Dine Out or not) as well as menu attractiveness (e.g. value for the money, choice of ingredients, creativity in the menu, enough options for two people, etc.). Also keep in mind that I curated the list based on my preference (as you know, I’m a meat lover and I’m biased against chicken and salmon), my way of thinking, so it may not all suit your taste. But hopefully this gives you a place to start.

Because the prices vary a lot this year, I can’t break them down by price point like previous years. Instead, I organized my list into Lunch, Dinner, Take Out, and Special Offer. And my recommendations are for that specific menu only, even though the restaurant may offer other menu options, after weighing in my preference and my perceived value of the menus. I’ve also included links to the menu to make it easier for you.

Lunch

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This Christmas is nothing like before. There will be no big public events, no big company parties, and no big family gatherings. But hey, we can all still celebrate the holiday season with our core bubble.

Don’t feel like cooking this Christmas? Local restaurants and caterers are offering to-go options that you can celebrate Christmas safely at home, while still enjoying restaurant quality dishes. Here is my round-up. I will continue to update this list as restaurants continue to promote their offering.

Make sure to check the order details for each one to not miss out!

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Durian – yay or nay?

This tropical fruit has a hard, spiky exterior. Inside, you would find pieces of soft, creamy fruit meat embedded in several segments. Growing up in HK, I watched market vendors went to the extent to use a screwdriver to ply it open. And fresh durian smell is more pungent than frozen ones. We could only find frozen durians here in Vancouver and the smell is nothing compared to what fresh, ripen durians smell at those markets in HK.

Durian is definitely an acquired taste. Those who love it would find the fruit sweet and fragrant. Those who hate it would say the fruit stinks like rotten egg. In fact, the opinions are a split in our household. Mama Lam wants nothing to do with it, yet Papa Lam enjoys it once in awhile.

Right now, for a limited time only, participating Chatime locations are selling Durian Milk Tea and Durian Roasted Milk Tea. I was provided complimentary drinks to taste test it.

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Dine Out Vancouver is back! Running from January 17 to February 2, the prix fixe portion of this year’s program is the same as last year, with 4 price points at $15, $25, $35 and $45. There are also lunch options, usually at a cheaper price than dinner. Menu may not be the same as dinner, though, so the value for money is a bit debatable.

The menus are now live and reservations are open. As I was going through the menus, I noticed a lot of new restaurants, ones that I’ve never heard of before. There’s been a lot of openings and closures last year so it makes sense – but it’s also nice to know it’s not the same old list. Here are some suggestions, based on past experience (Dine Out or not) as well as menu attractiveness (e.g. value for the money, choice of ingredients, creativity in the menu, enough options for two people, etc.). Now keep in mind I curated the list based on my preference (as you know, I’m a meat lover and I’m biased against chicken and salmon), my way of thinking, so it may not all suit your taste. But hopefully this gives you a place to start.

I’ve included links to the menu to make it easier for you.

$15 Suggestions

Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Fries, Popina

$25 Suggestions

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