Let’s face facts, the best part about cultural festivals is not the entertainment, it is the food. For foodies like us it is the part of a festival we look the most forward to and the best part is many of the festivals have some of the proceeds go to charity or organizations that could use a nice fund raiser. Thus, I am always willing to drop a few dollars at my local festival for some tasty food to go along with my entertainment.
This year, much like last year, I was assisting Pacific Media Expo with their stage show, which meant I was wearing a wool suit on a 79 degree sunny day in good old southern California. While I did try to keep cool, the heat can have an impact on the palate. If you eat the wrong food in the heat it will ruin the food, just as it is not all that fun to eat ice cream in the winter. Thus, it is important to adjust what you eat based on how you feel at the event and based on how you react to specific conditions.I am not a big fan of the heat, it tends to make me feel a little sick, and so I cannot eat foods that may upset my stomach as they will make a bad situation worse. Therefore, in the heat I have two recommendations the first is cold foods and the second are comfort foods. Eating something that makes you happy can often counteract the negative effects of an environment. A simple example is how making a child laugh can cause the child to forget a scraped knee. Eating something that makes you happy will take away the effect of pain on a psychological level.
When it comes to Japanese food there is one snack that holds rank over all others. Better than teriyaki, better than meat stuffed buns, and better than tempura it is the great treat known as Takoyaki. For those who are unfamiliar with this delight it is a bread-like ball filled with tempura batter, some ginger, and a little octopus. It is then covered in a special sauce that is like a sweet variation of a Worcestershire sauce, then sprinkled with some spices and covered with shreds of katsuobushi (similar to dried seaweed). It makes quite the colorful mess and adds many layers to the flavor. While, I do have a bias for octopus these takoyaki were better than most versions I have had in recent years. If you are at the festival I highly suggest these delicious octo-balls. They also have some alternate flavors, but I usually stick with the original because if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.
Once I had my meal chosen I had to choose a drink. While many were going for boba tea, I decided to go with the booth that was the most enthusiastic about their product. It was a tea booth and I kept hearing them yell out about their “ice cold winter melon tea”, thus they piqued my curiosity as I have never had winter melon before. I got a very large cup of tea for only a dollar and it was very refreshing. The flavor is similar to brown sugar and is a nice sweet summer drink. It creates a feeling similar to drinking a sweet tea or good lemonade during the summer.
Due to the heat I was not really feeling in the mood for dessert, which is a shame because they had dango at the event. There were also enough other food choices to make me wish I had gone both days so I could have had more. The Monterey Park Cherry Blossom festival offers numerous things to do and a large food area with many different options including standard American festival foods for the kids that don’t really like Asian food. If you are in town for this event then I suggest you go next year then grab some great Asian food and watch some traditional dances to make a more complete festival experience.
jared @ scarlet-rhapsody.com