I made it out to the Asian Festival for the first time ever this past weekend. Sheepish admission: I’d never gone before because I’d considered it to be competition to the store’s Salmon Roast. Boy, have I been missing out. I will no longer live in such ignorance. If I can run around during the entire four-hour roast, go home, shower and still manage to make it down to Franklin Park Conservatory to gorge myself with Asian food, then so can anyone.
The free festival featured countless back-to-back performances and a small tent city of food.
About a half of the vendors do not exist in restaurant or store format, outside of the festival. But I did see some favorites, including the people from Dosa Corner.
I decided to try foods from the vendors that don’t exist outside of the festival. I had roughly $20 to kill, and did my best to sample a wide variety. Luckily, I could sample Baseball Boy’s choices, as well.
He went with classic Korean BBQ: Bulgogi (beef with seasoning), rice, kimchi and an egg roll.
My most expensive (and most daring) choice was this Laotian spicy papaya salad served over cabbage. I was told that it would be mild, but this salad definitely had a kick. It was my least favorite, but by no fault of the makers. In my long list of weird food problems, I’ve found that fresh fruit causes a bit of an allergic reaction.
Next was this Cambodian kabob. Moist and delicious, with a hint of the fish sauce that accompanies most Cambodian cuisine, this was one of my favorites. I was disappointed that the festival only had one stand featuring Cambodian food, but as there is only one Cambodian restaurant in the entirety of Columbus, I guess I’m not surprised.
I’m slightly embarrassed that I can’t remember where these meatballs came from, but I can tell you that they were tasty. Served at room temperature and dipped in a sweet and sour sauce, I wouldn’t have minded a second try.
When I spotted this scallion pancake during my first walk-through, I knew it would be on my menu. Delicious. I still want to learn how to make these. I got my pancake and some bamboo rice from a stand that advertised vegetarian Chinese food.
The rice was tied up within a leaf and steamed with meaty mushrooms. The complex flavors were a surprise, as I was expecting plain old rice. Had it not been labeled vegetarian, I would have sworn that a meat or seafood stock was used in the preparation. This was a good find.
I found two to-die-for desserts at the festival. The first were these Filipino banana fritters. At $.75 a piece, it was difficult not to eat a tray full.
And then there were these Sata Andagi, or in my vernacular, Japanese doughnuts. Although each bite was a bit juicy, it didn’t feel like a greasy dessert. And the lack of excessive sugar tricked me into thinking that they were somewhat good for me.
The only downside to the festival? By the time we finished scavenging for food, the dancing on the stage was finished. Which is why, perhaps, the Asian festival goes on for more than one day. Although the official entertainment was over, we did find ourselves enamored by a spontaneous dance put on by a rainbow of happy children.
As the festival closed up for the evening, I couldn’t help but notice this moment. All in all, it was a good day. I can’t wait to go back.