Sunday, 13 February 2011

A Weekend of International Indulgence

So, to follow up on my last post... for Chinese New Year, with what little time I had that evening before running off for some extra-curricular activities, I made myself a dinner with two dishes, Salt and Pepper Shrimp and Braised Nappa Cabbage in Milk Sauce.  Well, my sister beat me to the post (pardon the pun) in posting about Salt and Pepper Shrimp, and since we both used the same recipe (minus the ginger juice on my part), I won't write the recipe here.

As she pointed out, do use shrimp with the heads still on, as the creamy insides of the heads are quite a treat.  I remember how, when I was a kid, I saw my mother dig into those heads with relish, and after I first tried one out of curiosity, I was hooked.  In my opinion, the best way to get at the head is to bite at the back of the head where it joins the body; there, the shell is the weakest.  Then you pry the head apart slightly to suck the insides, which are typically dark red and creamy.  To finish it off, pry the head completely apart, lick the inside of the shell and the inside of the feelers, and discard.

Saturday was the last and longest day for the Lieutenant-Governor's Winter Festival.  There were thirteen pavilions showcasing various cultures from around the world, and pretty much all of them had the trinity of food, drink and entertainment.  With the mild weather it was no surprise that many of those pavilions had quite some line-ups, naturally with the pavilions offering alcoholic beverages having longer line-ups than others.  I went to a few of the pavilions with a friend of mine from my Ultimate team along with his parents; his wife, also on our team, unfortunately couldn't join us as she was volunteering at one of the pavilions.  With this being such a big event, it's no surprise that one will meet other friends and colleagues at the pavilions.
Dinner Plate from the Brazilian Pavilion, along with an extra sweet nibble: Feijoada with farofa, Arroz, Vinaigrete, with the extra item being a Brigadeiro.  To the left at top is a Brazilian soft drink, guarana.

Dancers performing a dance called "maculele" at the Brazilian Pavilion.
Our first stop was the Brazilian Pavilion, which, if memory serves me right, was one of the few that were new this year. Being a new pavilion, there was a fairly long line-up, but fortunately we were in the front part of the line-up and therefore found some half-decent seats from which to eat and see the dancing, which included the samba, the maculele and, of course, capoeira.  While we were being entertained I tried the pavilion's dinner plate which consisted of three items: feijoada topped with farofa, arroz and vinaigrete.  Feijoada is a hearty and meaty Brazilian stew with black beans, beef, pork, sausage, bacon and onion, and the topping of farofa is cassava flour.  Arroz is rice, which in this case was flavoured with garlic and salt, and the vinaigrete was a raw salad of tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, vinegar, lime juice and salt; I appreciated the presence of the vinaigrete to balance against the feijoada.  The pavilion also offered sweet nibbles called Brigadeiros, which were chocolate-fudge-like concoctions rolled into balls and coated with shaved coconut.

To quench my thirst, I opted for a can of Brazilian soda called guarana, which also contains the extract of the namesake plant, itself high in caffeine content. The flavouring of the guarana soft drink was close to some forms of cream soda, though I'm quite sure the former drink would provide a better energy boost than the latter!  Both the dancing and the food were quite enjoyable.
The Ukrainian Pavilion's Dinner Plate: Cabbage rolls, perogies (with a side of sour cream) and sausage.  Also shown are an optional side of dill pickle, and rye bread which accompanies the cabbage and beet soup borscht.
Next we went to the always popular Ukrainian Pavilion.  Though there was already a line-up as expected, we were fortunate in arriving before a wave of more revellers arrived, including those disembarking a free shuttle provided by Brandon Transit.  The Ukrainian Pavilion has been, in my opinion, by far the most organized pavilion I've visited to date.  For example, volunteers steer visitors to seats as they become available, allowing both for the volunteers to control crowds and to ensure visitors do have a seat from which to enjoy food drink and entertainment.  Also, a seat far from the area where dancers perform, below the raised stage, can still decently see the performances thanks to a large projector screen relaying what's happening on the dance floor.

Of course, the perogies have become the food symbol for the Ukrainian Pavilion, and I've heard passers-by day and night raving about those potato-and-cheese dumplings.  I also ordered a dinner plate here, which included perogies, cabbage rolls and sausage, along with borscht, a cabbage and beet soup.  The cabbage rolls had a tomato based sauce and were stuffed with rice and ground meat.  When I was last there two years ago the pavilion ran out of cabbage rolls early.  Ever since then they've made sure that didn't happen again, which included buying and freezing over 800 pounds of cabbage over the summer when cabbage is in season and therefore cheaper.  Brandon may be a small city, but 800 pounds of cabbage just to make enough cabbage rolls for three nights and a day can begin giving one an idea of the magnitude of this popular winter event.  Once again, food and dancing were enjoyable, with one of my favourite dancing moments being the youngest dancers performing their number.  The looks of semi-confusion on their faces just added to the adorable factor, and they looked so small and cute in their colourful costumes!
The making of maple taffy.

My friend enjoying some maple taffy.
After a brief stopover at the Global Village Pavilion for my friend to meet up with his wife for a bit at the Japanese section, our original group continued to the French Canadian Pavilion where we stayed until my friend's wife was ready to head for some pavilions as an "ambassador".  While we waited I opted to invoke a bit of my childhood memories and had some maple taffy.  Maple taffy is so simple yet so divine thanks to the complex flavour of maple syrup/sugar.  To make maple taffy, hot maple syrup is poured in short lines on a bed of clean snow, and the syrup is rolled up on a popsicle stick.  It was unfortunate that the pavilion didn't allow people to roll up the taffy on the sticks themselves like at sugar shacks, but I still at least enjoyed the goodness of maple syrup.

When my friend's wife was ready to visit some pavilions, we proceeded first to the Scottish Pavilion.  Being still full from the Brazilian and Ukrainian Pavilions, I'd forgone any food offered at the Scottish Pavilion, but I got myself a bottle of a Scottish soft drink, Irn Bru.  Don't be fooled by the orange colour, it was not orange flavoured, but it nonetheless it provided a refreshing quench to my thirst as I continued my journey through the pavilions across the city.
A pair performing the national Philippine dance, the tinikling.
One of two Philippine combo plates: Adobong Manok (chicken stew), Pancit (Bihon?) (fried rice noodles with chicken and vegetables), and Kanin (steamed rice).

A pair of macapuno (young coconut) tarts.
The last pavilion we explored was the Philippine Pavilion, another new addition for this year.  We had entered the pavilion near the end of the last show which featured tinikling, the national Philippine dance where dancers move their feet in coordination with bamboo poles that move and clap to a rhythm.  This was one of dances that have fascinated me, especially since any mistake by the dancers in the tinikling would have painful consequences.

As for food, by this time I felt I had enough room in my stomach to try some Philippine cuisine, so I opted for one of the combo plates which had steamed rice, Abodong Manok (chicken stew) and Pancit (a rice noodle dish).  Though the description at the pavilion wasn't detailed, from my quick online research I suspect the version made was Pancit Bihon, which would've included soy sauce, lime juice and possibly fish sauce along with the sliced chicken and vegetables that were clearly evident.  The stew tasted like it may have also been soy sauce based.

To end it all I got my hands on some macapuno (young coconut tarts).  The base filling is similar to the Chinese egg tart being egg-based and custard-like in texture, but the filling is topped with shreds of young coconut.  I prefer young coconut over the typical old coconuts found at Western supermarkets due to the softer texture of the flesh (the younger it is the more gelatinous) and the higher quantity of juice within the younger coconuts.

In the end, we enjoyed our time exploring some of the Winter Festival pavilions, though had time been on our side we would've liked to have explored all thirteen of them.  Hats off to the organizers and especially the hundreds of volunteers who made this annual event possible for the eighth year in a row!

No comments:

Post a Comment