It’s impossible to generalize about Latin-American food as one entity, because it’s an umbrella term that encompasses many diverse cuisines. Luckily for Vancouverites, a highly anticipated cultural festival is coming to the city this weekend where eventgoers will be able to try everything from Chilean street food to Mexican bites to Brazilian snacks.
Known as the largest Latin-American festival in the Pacific Northwest, Carnaval del Sol returns to Concord Pacific Place (88 Pacific Boulevard) on July 6 and 7 (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) with a host of activities, entertainment, and, most importantly, delectable food.
Each year, its organizers make an effort to recruit a variety of food vendors that can represent Central American and South American countries. It takes a whole team to go through the applications and figure out if a vendor will be a good fit for the outdoor summer celebration.
“This year we tried to make a mix to have more countries represented,” Juliana Fiallo, cultural manager at Carnaval del Sol, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “It was a lot of hard work, but everyone was applying. This year is one that we prepared the most for the food, and it’s really a diverse offering.”
You may not have heard of some of these culinary creations, but that doesn’t make them any less delicious. Some of the items you’ll find at this weekend’s massive fete are bolis de sabores, frozen treats from Panama; Cuban-style barbecue, made with beef, chicken, and pork with rice and salad; arepas, gluten-free corn bread popular in Colombia and Venezuela; and pastel, crispy fried pie with assorted fillings from Brazil.
Although most vendors will be serving up items from a specific country or cuisine, there are a few dishes that are known as cross-culture treats: classic bites created differently depending on which destination you’re eating them in.
“One of the interesting things are empanadas[baked or fried pastry with fillings],” Fiallo explained. “They are not new but good this year because they are one of the few foods that unite Latin America. Different countries use different ways to make it. We’ll have empanadas from different countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and you’ll have different kinds.”
The same goes for arepas and tamales (steamed corn dish filled with protein or veggies, and wrapped in a banana leaf), well-known foods that can be prepared in a multitude of ways throughout the South American continent.
Besides the 30 food vendors at Carnaval del Sol, cooking demonstrations are another culinary highlight for visitors to discover. Local and international chefs will take the stage, and word of mouth tells us that some of the cooking demos will incorporate edible insects.
“This year, we are celebrating our Latin Indigenous and Afro roots. We will showcase this type of food through the recipes at the cooking demonstrations,” Fiallo said. “We will have chefs talk about the history of the cultures and talk about the roots that we have in our foods.”
Whether you’ll be indulging in mango on a stick sprinkled with chili flakes, drinking a piña colada bubble tea, or digging into a mac and cheese with a Latin-American twist, one thing’s for sure: Carnaval del Sol will offer an unrivalled selection of mouthwatering and unique flavours.
“Come to the festival ready to taste and travel around Latin America, and discover all the foods. Be ready to get a little bit of everything,” Fiallo said. “You will see modifications for the local styles, homegrown ingredients, and flavours from so many different regions. Metro Vancouver is a blend of so many colourful cultures, and you’re going to see it reflected in the food.”
Carnaval del Sol takes place on Saturday and Sunday (July 6 and 7) at Concord Pacific Place.