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Feature: Asian fest brings cate to Ottawa |

Feature: Asian fest brings cate to Ottawa

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by Christopher Guly


OTTAWA, July 29 (Xinhua) — It is the smells that first hit you in Ottawa’s Chinatown on the last weekend in July.

Cooks frantically working over blazing hot skillets and sizzling vats produce a gastro-bouquet of exotic Asian fare, from fried squid with kimchi fries to okonomiyaki aka (Japanese pancakes), and there is no shortage of lineups of people waiting to buy and taste.

Some dishes – squid-on-a-stick and stinky tofu, common in Toronto’s much larger Chinatown – were only be available for the three days of Ottawa Asian Fest, which is designed as a traditional Asian night market that the late American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain popularized on his Emmy Award-winning CNN series, “Parts Unknown.”

“We want to expand people’s horizons and experience food from different cultures,” said Simon Huang, project coordinator of the annual festival that runs until Sunday.

Chinese-born Huang, who owns a bubble-tea shop in Ottawa’s Chinatown and helped start Ottawa Asian Fest three years ago, told Xinhua in an interview that the goal was to hold an event not focused on one Asian culture and, like similar night markets in Toronto and Vancouver, showcase dishes from China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal, along with entertainment from Asian-Canadian singers and a traditional dragon dance.

Ottawa has a modest East and Southeast Asian population of nearly 80,000, according to the latest Statistics Canada figures from the 2016 census. Most of those, or almost 48,000 residents, are of Chinese descent.

But Ottawa Asian Fest’s appeal clearly crosses over those ethnic lines, as Huang observed on the opening night on Friday when he was struck by the many “non-Asian” faces he saw in the mainly young crowd hopping from one food kiosk to another.

“Food draws people, and we’re using food as a hook,” he said. “We’re definitely bringing a lot of people to Chinatown who’ve never been here before.”

Last year, when Canada’s capital city was abuzz at this time with Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations and the wildly popular La Machine street festival from France featuring a gigantic fire-breathing mechanical dragon-horse and giant spider, about 25,000 people visited the Asian night market, which has no admission fee.

Yet this year’s attendance could be even higher, with Huang expecting record attendance at the festival that covers three city blocks.

But those who do go should come with an empty stomach – or at the very least, save some room for dessert. The cotton-candy, ice-cream burritos on the menu from Toronto-based Asian food vendor YOSH! were just in Ottawa for the weekend. Enditem

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