Monday, June 28, 2010

Taste of Asia 2010

Every year, the Federation of Chinese Canadians in Markham (FCCM), the Association of Progressive Muslims of Ontario (APMO), with the support of Canadian Heritage, Social Services Network (SSN), Canadian Federation of Intercultural Friendship (CFIF), York Regional Police, Asian Canadian Entrepreneurs and Professionals (ACEP) in cooperation with the Town of Markham and the Regional Municipality of York, all take part in hosting a multicultural event called Taste of Asia. According to its website, Taste of Asia began in 2002 during the SARS period in hopes to boost the local economy as well as creating "harmony between different ethnic groups through an event of mutual respect and co-operation". 

Taste of Asia is a two-day event on a weekend. This year, it was held on Saturday, June 26th, and Sunday, June 27th. Several streets were blocked off for easy pedestrian access to over hundreds of street vendors, various concerts and shows, a kid zone playground area, a job fair, a car show, a pet show, and the largest 3 on 3 Street Basketball Tournament.

I went to Taste of Asia for the past two years (this is because my boyfriend was a participant in the basketball tournament). Not sure if it is bad luck or what, but it rained for both years =( Nevertheless, I managed to sneak in shots of some of the food vendors when the rain was taking a breather.

First up, we have smelly/stinky tofu. There were 3 to 4 stands selling smelly tofu, this one being the most popular based on the lineup. 

For those who don't know what smelly (or stinky) tofu is, it is a form of fermented tofu that has a very very strong stinky odor, akin to a toilet smell. It is a popular snack in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Mainland China, where it is usually found in night markets or roadside stands, or as side dish in lunch bars.

Here's a short blurb about the production of Smelly Tofu from Wikipedia:

The traditional method for producing stinky tofu is to prepare a brine made from fermented milk, vegetables, and meat. The brine fermentation can take as long as several months. Although stinky tofu is very popular in East and Southeast Asia, not many households prepare stinky tofu brine at home due to its strong odor.

Even though the traditional method is still widely practiced by street vendors, modern factories often use quicker methods to mass produce stinky tofu. Fresh tofu is marinated in prepared brine for only a day or two. The process only adds odor to the marinated tofu instead of letting it ferment completely. The nature of the stinky tofu production process makes it extremely difficult to pass government food regulation even in Asia. The diversity and lack of formulated methods also makes it nearly impossible for any government to regulate and inspect. In Asia, no stinky tofu factories were ever officially licensed or constantly monitored; in most cases, government inspection can only focus on the cooking procedure and ventilation.

A stinky tofu vendor somewhere in Asia (from Wikipedia)

In North America, stinky tofu is often "home-made" in cities with significant Asian population, but are still produced underground as a side-business to avoid government inspections.

Personally, I have no affinity towards smelly tofu - I am indifferent in a sense that I don't love it or hate it. But I'm SEROIUSLY not kidding when I say it stinks like a toilet - it really really stinks.

Moving on, although none of these three things are Asia related, a festival is incomplete without a corn / yam / lemonade stand,

funnel cakes,

or cotton candy.

Next we have some grilled lobsters. Again, nothing Asian about lobsters, but I do know that 99% of Asians love seafood.

We love oysters too.

Besides the smelly/stinky tofu stands, which are the most prominent vendors in terms smell and in taste, there were other Asian foods as well. Here we have murtabak, a dish commonly found in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Brunei.

Usually made by street vendors in the evening, martabak are pan-cooked, using a specially shaped pan. After cooking, the pancake is topped with a variety of possible ingredients: cheese, chocolate, crushed peanuts, condensed milk and sesame seeds. After the ingredients are added, the pancake is cut into half, and one side is flipped onto the other. A large amount of margarine is added throughout the whole process.

A chocolate-filled martabak (from Wikipedia)
Next we have a tacoyaki stand.

Takoyaki (literally fried or baked octopus) is a popular Japanese dumpling made of batter, diced or whole baby octopus, tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion, topped with okonomiyaki sauce, ponzu, mayonnaise, green laver (aonori), and katsuobushi (fish shavings).

There were some fierce competition when it came to lamb kabobs. 

BBQ Beef & Pork Jerky. Cute piggy.

Korean Kalbi beef.

Next up are three vendors that confused me a bit. 

First one promoting "washabi fries" (a "new taste" I can't say I am too eager to try),

but really all I see are fish and beef balls on a stick. Where are these "washabi fries"?

Second vendor promoting "Asian Hot Dogs".

I think they are trying to imitate Japadog. If they are, they are doing a really bad job.

I have no desire whatsoever to eat what's on that table. I guess I'm not confused by this vendor, just not interested in it.

Next up, abalone pancakes (direct translation of the sign).

I see something that will become a pancake but theres also a skewer beside it. I wonder what is mixed with the abalone and how much abalone is actually in that mixture (since abalone is considered a luxury item / delicacy in Asia). Since it's selling for $4, I'm guessing not much, if at all.

Back to something I'm familiar with, chicken shawerma.

I have never made a shawerma before, but judging from this guy's face, it seems like a tough job.

 Lastly, we have some betta fishes.

No worries, not edible, but thought I would include a picture of it because 1) I have a betta fish, and 2) it just shows that there are many random vendors at Taste of Asia that has nothing to do with Asia - such as vendors selling these fishes, or vendors selling apparel, jewelery, knick knacks, cell phone covers and screen protectors LOL. Although Taste of Asia's emphasis is on Asian stuff,  it is really just a street festival =)