Osmanthus rice cake. [Photo/WeChat account: jhfabu]
One of nature's fragrances that's hard to ignore in autumn has to be the scent of the osmanthus blossom. Osmanthus is widely used in Chinese cuisine, especially in the area around Jiangnan, which is south of the Yangtze River.
It's traditional in China to enjoy osmanthus-flavored cake and wine during Mid-Autumn Festival, perhaps because Mid-Autumn Festival is when the osmanthus flowers are in full bloom. Enjoying the sweet-scented osmanthus cake and wine also stands for family reunion and a happy life.
Osmanthus rice cake is also popular. The unctuous sweet treat is a mixture of osmanthus flowers and glutinous rice flour.
Roasted chestnuts are a cold weather comfort food. They used to be hand fried in huge iron woks, with the vendors perspiring over the hot sand mixture, despite the autumn chill. The sand helps to increase the heat needed to pop the nuts open.
These days, chestnuts are mostly roasted in automated steel drums that rotate, rustling noisily as they turn.
Holding a bag of hot chestnuts warms both hands and heart. And, because of the high carbohydrate content, the nuts also provide heat to the body.
Hairy crab - rich in protein and amino acids - is probably one of most sought-after delicacies among Chinese people as autumn approaches. Crabs are ready to lay their eggs around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival, just when they are at their tastiest.
The annual frenzy starts as September arrives, bringing with it the cooling days and the scent of blooming chrysanthemums. It continues through October and tapers off as year-end approaches.