When Curtis Luk takes a turn on the culinary stage at the upcoming Richmond World Festival, the chances of him having the jitters are slim. That’s because the setting has a familiar feel for the executive chef of Mission Kitsilano.
“I grew up in Markham [Ontario], which is like the Richmond over there,” Luk tells the Straight on the line from his Kitsilano restaurant. “We have giant Chinese malls, and there’s a lot of Asian influences. It really reminds me of home. It’s uncanny how similar it is; some of the better Chinese restaurants in the Greater Toronto area are there. So, for me, being at the festival is like being at home.”
Luk, who moved west just over five years ago, will be showing food-loving fest attendees how to make his green-garbanzo hummus with local crudités. It’s a fresh-tasting dish, light and textural, the green garbanzo beans lending it a flavour reminiscent of fava beans or green peas. It’s also a simple one for a reason.
“I wanted something you can actually make at home,” Luk says. “There are a lot of complicated things on TV cooking shows. If you’re going to demo on the stage, the person watching should feel like ‘Oh yeah, that’s something I’d try.’ ”
The cooking stage is one component of the event’s food offerings. The FEASTival of Flavours will feature more than 50 food trucks, including Chickpea, Curry Express, Jamaican Mi Juicy, Kampong, Old Country Pierogi, and Slavic Rolls.
Also appearing on the culinary stage are several other local talents, including Kimiko Suzuki, who teaches Japanese cooking at UBC Farm and other places around Metro Vancouver. She’ll be taking to the stage for the second year in a row.
“Richmond has a special place in my heart,” Suzuki tells the Straight. “I was born and raised in Wakayama, Japan. Richmond and Wakayama have a long history as sister cities. My husband was raised in Richmond and we met while I was working there. Richmond World Festival helps all people remember that we live in a big one world together, and we should enjoy and appreciate each other, as a community.”
Suzuki will be sharing her recipe for kimchi fried rice. It has bacon and water chestnuts and is spicy, salty, and crunchy all at once.
“This dish is created from ingredients from all over the world,” she says. “Kimchi is originally from Korea, lots of South Asian dishes have water chestnuts, bacon is from Canada, and sushi rice is from Japan. This is a dish where the world comes together. I love to show people how simple it is to make great meals happen.”
Thai chef Pailin Chongchitnant, meanwhile, makes cooking videos for her YouTube channel and her One World Kitchen is in its second season on Gusto. She will be participating in the fest for the first time.
“Being a member of a minority ethnic group myself, I always love and appreciate events that shine light onto different cultures that are represented here in Canada, especially ones that are lesser known by the general public,” Chongchitnant says.
She’ll be making pineapple fried rice, seasoned with classic Thai ingredients such as fish sauce and soy sauce, as well as curry powder and white pepper for added warmth.
“Tart, fresh pineapple, not canned, contrasts perfectly with the nuttiness from cashews, and if you’re a fan of raisins you can throw those in too,” Chongchitnant explains. “It’s one of those dishes you can’t stop eating, plus it’s beautiful and quick to put together. It’s not something I grew up eating in Thailand, actually, because people there like to put raisins in it, which I can’t stand. But now that I’m cooking my own food, I can conveniently leave them out.
“It’s such an easy and delicious dish anyone can do at home, and that’s always my goal when doing demos: to show people Thai food does not have to be complicated,” she adds. “It’s also a dish that perfectly represents Chinese and Indian influences on Thai cuisine, so when I demo this dish, it opens a door for me to talk about cultural roots of Thai cuisine as well.”
The FEASTival of Flavours is part of the Richmond World Festival on Friday and Saturday (September 1 and 2) at Minoru Park. Curtis Luk will participate in the International Pan-Asian Culinary Invitational taking place on Saturday and Sunday (September 2 and 3) at Robson Plaza during TaiwanFest.