Thursday, December 3, 2015

Autumn Moon Festival Tea Party

Well, this is slightly late (only a few months). I had a small Autumn Moon Festival party way back at the end of September to celebrate my new living space and the incredible balcony it came with. With that much balcony space, it was impossible not to decorate. So I decorated and asked my friends to come over and view the full moon. We feasted on all kinds of Asian goodies and for dessert - moon cakes and of course tea.

For my Asian inspired decor, I went with a predominantly green and white color scheme. I added red ixora (flame of the woods) for pops of color. The ixora looked a bit like chrysanthemums from far away so they reminded me of those big, beautiful chrysanthemums you see in old Chinese paintings. I cut the flowers low so we could see each other and converse more easily. It always bums me out to cut flowers so short but I think adding several vases along the table made it look elegant.

I think some very dark blue or green napkins would have been great here but I used what I had and white goes with everything so it worked out. I bought 3 pots of ixora and just cut a few of the flowering stems. You don't need very many for a dramatic look. 

I used these chopsticks for the very first time! They were handmade in Vietnam. I rested them on chopstick rests I found at World Market. I think they are little origami swans. Each place setting had a small origami box concealing a little surprise. I made the little boxes out of scrapbook paper in the same color scheme but with different designs. Each box was tied off with a thin black ribbon. So, what was inside the box? So, my intention was to give away hand made mochi but I found these little "devils" at the Asian market and could not resist.

What is this you ask? They are water caltrops- also known as devil pods, buffalo nuts or bat nuts. My brother and I poked and prodded them but did not realize they were food at all! Who was the first person to look at these nuts and exclaim - I will eat this! Well, I asked my colleague from China and she said they were very lucky! Apparently the bat name sounds like fortune so it is considered a fortuitous nut. It was often offered for worship. My friend also said it's shape resembles the way gold and silver were formed in ancient China, rendering this a very lucky nut indeed! This weird nut is considered invasive in Vermont  and Virginia but is endangered in Germany. I think that is because very few people in the states would consider this food.

So, I cooked it up for my friends and gave it to them. To their delight and eventual horror, the nuts were interesting but tasted very odd. I really did not like cooking them either. They have a weird smell. I broke tons of cinnamon sticks in the boiling pot of water to give them a different scent but it was impossible. Others have recommended anise seed but my friends did not like anise seed so I only used cinnamon. After boiling, the shells become quite soft and you can dig the flesh out. However, it is still very difficult to take out large pieces of flesh. I have read that you can bite into the shell but I didn't want to risk being stabbed by a horn. It is very similar in texture and taste to a regular chestnut but the smell completely throws me off these. Regardless, I was delighted to find something so interesting and new to show my friends. They are in season around the moon festival so it was a fun gift to offer. I dried the remaining nuts since my friend suggested that they make excellent wooden wind chimes.

I hope you got to enjoy the full moon with your friends and family during this wonderful season!