Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Powell Street Festival Eats

This weekend, Mi-ster (Middle Sister) I biked down to Oppenheimer Park for the Powell Street Festival. This is the 35th anniversary of the summer event. The festival began in 1976 as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first documented arrival in Canada of a Japanese immigrant....basically its a chance for people to learn about the history of Japanese immigration to Canada and more specifically Vancouver, and a chance to celebrate Japanese culture. This means lots of booths, a market, taiko drumming, martial arts (a sumo competition!) music, dancing, kimonos, katanas, and FOOD! The nice weather brought out a massive crowd so although there were many different booths, offering different food options, there were crazy long line-ups everywhere.

On the east strip of the park, the offerings included a massive salmon barbeque, $3/piece Spam Sushi, Donburi, Teriyaki, meat skewers, but once Mi-ster and I food spotted on some passerby's eating Okonomikyaki, our first course was decided.

Okonomikyaki are a savoury pancakes made with batter, cabbage, spring onions, minced meat, then topped with bonito flakes (dried tuna shavings), japanese mayo, and okinomayaki sauce (tastes like a saltier, less sweet, teriyaki). Apparantly, different parts of Japan have their own variations with the batter and fillings. The line-up was certainly intimidating, but we were hungry and finally decided to stop talking about the food/lines and just get in line. The line moved quite slowly, and we reached the front of the line, pretty much drooling, 30 minutes later. My good pal, Style Guru had joined us at that point and we placed our orders. Once our orders were in, the food was ready quickly.

Mi-ster and I split an Okonomiyaki ($4) and each tried a Yakionigiri (essentially grilled Rice Balls) 2 for $3). Style Guru ordered a Okonomiyaki combo for $9, adding two BBQ chicken Yakitori skewers.

She also threw in a banana flavoured sno-cone/shaved ice!

The long line was now a distant memory as we sat on the grass in the sun, enjoyed the musical performance on the mainstage and chowed down. Everything was delicious. The okokoomi was a savoury mix of flavours and textures. It was salty, onion-y, with a crispy exterior and a bit of a crunch with the cabbage and a soft well-cooked batter. The toppings were out of this world- rich, dynamic, and explosive flavour.
I loved the grilled rice balls- such a simple concept but so delicious. They were slightly oily from the flat top grill job, the rice was warm but not hot with a hint sesame/soy flavour. It had an awesome toasty, slightly crunchy exterior. I had a bite of Style Guru's yakitori skewers and sno-cone and they were both tasty too. We took a food break and walked around for about an hour before ending up at the food stalls at the west side of the park.

I REALLY REALLY wanted some Takoyaki (octopus balls) but I couldn't face another 30 minute line-up so we decided to hit some of the booths with smaller line ups.
Mi-ster and I hit the Sunrise tofu tent and split an order of "Crazy Spicy Hot Tofu for $2.50" and each got a Matcha Frappe ($2 each). The Tofu was good but not amazing and the "Crazy Hot" was false advertising...it was only kinda hot. We both loved our Matcha Frappes. It was cold and refreshing, not too sweet with a touch of soy milk flavour. My only complaint was that the serving size cups were quite small for a very basic $2 drink, especially because it was so delicious and refreshing.

Lastly, Style Guru and sister lined up for Imagawayaki ($1.50 each.) SG bought me one too- she's so generous!
Style Guru and I thought these were wheel cakes filled with chocolate or Nutella but when we bit in we were surprised.

This was more of a thicker pancake batter filled with mushy red beans. After the initial surprise of beans instead of hazelnutty/chocolatey good-ness, I really really liked this dessert treat. The batter was a little salty and the red beans had a subtle sweetness that made the whole cake a bit lighter. This was an awesome afternoon of sunshine, entertainment, good people, and good eats....and long line-ups. As much as I enjoyed this, all I kept thinking about is how much I'm looking forward to hitting the Richmond Night Market soon for cheap, tasty, Asian street food- with shorter line ups that move way faster.

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