Eat your way around the world at summer food festivals
If you’re the type of traveller whose itinerary is usually filled with gastronomic attractions, you may want to stay put this summer. The international cuisine found at Vancouver restaurants year-round gets even better—with music, arts, and culture—at summer festivals taking place across Metro Vancouver. So gather your friends and family and taste the world at these five food festivals. The only thing you’ll need to pack is your appetite.
Scandinavian Midsummer Festival
(June 23 and 24 at the Scandinavian Community Centre [6540 Thomas Street, Burnaby] )
If the closest you’ve come to trying Scandinavian cuisine is hitting up the cafeteria at IKEA, you’re in for a treat. Almost all of the food at the 17th annual festival is prepared by Scandinavian community volunteers, meaning it’s authentic, and inexpensive. Start the day off with a Danish open-faced sandwich topped with pickled herring, salmon, or cheese before checking out the marketplace or swinging by the Viking Village. When your stomach’s rumbling again, grab an order of homemade Finnish meatballs topped with gravy or head outside to the salmon barbecue, where wild Coho salmon will be served alongside potato salad. Stay into the evening (the festival runs until midnight on Saturday) and drink and dance beneath the stars to the sound of bands performing in the beer garden. See scandinavianmidsummerfestival.com/.
(June 24 on West Broadway between MacDonald and Blenheim streets)
As far as the Hellenic Canadian Congress of B.C. is concerned, the only problem with last year’s Greek Day was the long lines at the food stands, so organizers have increased the number of vendors from 18 to 23 this year. Greek Day is a true family festival, from the free kids’ zone to the easy-to-share food. Grab a few skewers of chicken or pork souvlaki and a side of feta-laden Greek French fries to start. The more adventurous can try an aromatic link of loukániko pork sausage or some seasoned roast lamb. Look for live entertainment all day and local chefs giving cooking demonstrations. Before you leave, swing by the Hellenic Experience Tent, where a variety of Greek olives will be available to sample. But be sure to save room for a few loukoumades; the deep-fried, honey-dipped balls of dough are hard to pass up. See greekday.com/.
Powell Street Festival
(August 4 and 5 at Oppenheimer Park [400 block Powell Street])
The 36th annual celebration of Japanese Canadian heritage, arts, and culture wouldn’t be complete without Japanese and Japanese-inspired food. Accordingly, festival organizers are expanding further down Jackson Avenue this year, with new food vendors between Alexander and Powell streets. Fans of takoyaki (fried octopus balls) will want to try Osaka balls, a variation containing shrimp or scallops. If you’re hoping to taste something more unusual, Spam musubi, a popular Hawaiian snack of nori-wrapped grilled Spam on rice, should do the trick. Midday, feel the blood pump through your veins at a lively taiko-drumming performance before cooling down with an order of ujikintoki kakigori, shaved ice topped with matcha-flavoured syrup, condensed milk, and sweet red beans. See powellstreetfestival.com/.
Latin Summer Fest
(August 19 at Trout Lake Park [Victoria Drive and 15th Avenue])
Latin Summer Fest brings together the sights, sounds, and flavours of Latin, African-Caribbean, Filipino, and Portuguese communities, so there’s always something new to try at this high-energy festival. New to this year’s food program is the inclusion of Bolivian specialties, including papa a la Huancaína, a spicy and creamy potato dish. Also at the festival are pupusas from El Salvador, which are thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, pork, and beans; Chilean empanadas, another savoury meat-filled pastry; and Portuguese-influenced sardines, roasted over an open pit. After dancing off the calories to the sound of ska and reggae from the main stage, finish the day by trying something different, like Nicaraguan envueltos, which are banana leaves filled with meat and plantain or potato. See latinsummerfest.com/.
(September 1 to 3 on the 600 to 800 blocks of Granville Street and the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza [801 West Georgia Street])
If you enjoyed the grand street banquet that took over Granville Street at last year’s Telus TaiwanFest, you’ll want to check out this year’s celebration, which will feature 12 new dishes highlighting the street food of Taiwan’s former capital, Tainan. New to this year’s menu are ji juan, which is a crispy roll of minced chicken; milkfish balls in thick broth; and sweet mung-bean soup, which is believed to cool the body and aid in digestion. Also worth a try is pork knuckle in noodle soup, a featured dish by famed Taiwanese stewing master Chef Teng, who will be giving cooking demonstrations throughout the festival. There will also be the usual array of Taiwanese street-food favourites such as grilled pork sausages on sticky-rice buns, barbecued squid, and that infamous stinky tofu. See taiwanfest.ca/