It’s not easy blending together different cuisines, and it’s a fact that this type of cooking has earned a less-than-impressive reputation over the years. After all the butchered attempts at serving fusion dishes in the ’90s, you’d think the term fusion would’ve been eliminated from Vancouver’s culinary vocabulary. But contrary to popular belief, fusion fare is still going strong in Metro Vancouver—and you’ll be able to find plenty of it at this year’s Richmond World Festival.
The annual extravaganza returns Friday and Saturday (August 31 and September 1) at Minoru Park and Richmond Cultural Centre Plaza (7191 Granville Avenue, Richmond). It attracted more than 40,000 people last year, featuring everything from musical performances to sports attractions to arts activities. However, it can be argued that its food offerings are the most important highlight, not only because they can satisfy appetites, but because they simultaneously showcase multiculturalism through a delicious medium.
“The Richmond World Fest recognizes Richmond’s growing reputation as a culinary tourism destination,” Ted Townsend, director of corporate communications and marketing at the City of Richmond, told the Straight in a phone interview. “We’re seeing an increasing growth in Richmond, and a lot of that has to do with the cultural diversity of the food that can be found here, which is right in sync with the theme of what we’re trying to celebrate at the festival.”
Although food lovers now prefer to call fusion food “globally inspired” cuisine, the core aspect of this cooking style remains the same as when it was first popularized in the 1970s: combining gastronomy from different countries.
Festivalgoers will be able to catch cooking demonstrations on the culinary stage, which will focus on locally sourced food and a fusion theme. One of the featured guests is chef Lan Do, owner of Bánh Mì Très Bon. Her restaurant explores how French culture influenced Vietnamese cuisine, and serves fan favourites like bánh mì (a Vietnamese baguette made with various ingredients) and French-style pastries. Though she may not identify with creating fusion food, she acknowledges the significance of how different cultures can affect different cuisines. Do will be preparing items such as grilled-beef bánh mì and green papaya salad, which gives attendees a glimpse into the food history and culture of France and Vietnam.
Another highly anticipated event at the annual fete is the FEASTival of Flavours: a festival within a festival that will feature more than 50 food trucks. Many different global treats will be available, including tacos, dumplings, barbecued meats, noodles, and Amsterdam street food.
Some of the food trucks will be offering fusion creations, such as El Cartel. It specializes in Korean, Latin-American, and Tex-Mex flavours, with menu items like Korean steak tacos, Korean poutine, and Mexican-style chicken tacos. The roaming meals-on-wheels business has scored high ratings online, and we don’t doubt its cross-culture grub is as mouthwatering as it sounds.
Another one to keep an eye out for is Mr. Bannock—Vancouver’s first Indigenous food truck. Chef and owner Paul Nattrall uses traditional cooking methods like clay and stone baking to create delicious bannock (flat quick bread), and sources traditional ingredients from the Squamish Nation such as juniper berries and smoked wild salmon. But he also gets creative and blends his old-school kitchen techniques with urban food trends, creating tasty items like bannock pizza and Indian tacos.
Fusion food isn’t always executed properly—when it’s done poorly, you won’t want to try it again. Yet present-day success stories like Mr. Bannock, which has earned awards for its fusion Indigenous street food, prove that merging different cuisines doesn’t necessarily have to leave a bad taste in your mouth.
“The food trucks are celebrating their own cultures, but they’re also bringing in other cultures as well. That’s really what the World Festival is about, bringing together cultures and encouraging that integration and fusion,” said Townsend. “What better way to do it than through food? It’s an important element of the festival, and one that is also very enjoyable and filling.”