Be it Italian Day, the Buskerfest or night markets, food plays a significant role in the lives of Vancouverites. While sushi is certainly one of the most popular dishes in town, the city’s culinary scene offers much variety. Michelle Ng, food lover and founder of Vancouver Foodie Tours, says the culinary cuisine has changed a lot over the last decade. Vancouver’s culinary scene seems to be defined by people’s lifestyles and the geographic peculiarities.
According to Ng, Vancouver’s food scene is primarily characterized by eating local, fresh ingredients.
“The ingredients might not be fancy or expensive, compared to other food scenes around the world – especially Asia. But we are all about local food,” she says.
Ng notes that people in Vancouver love to eat according to the season – whatever is fresh. Her favorite dish depends on the season. According to her, atypical, yet unique, seafood of Vancouver is spot prawns.
“Every visitor should experience it if they arrive during spot prawn season, which is typically during the months of May and June,” she adds.
Ng considers fresh seafood something that sets Vancouver’s food scene apart from other cities. Thus, one of the most popular dishes among visitors is B.C. salmon, explains Ng. She feels that being outdoors and feeling good are essential for people in Vancouver, which is why healthy food is so popular. A foodie at heart, Ng points out that she, however, not only indulges in healthy food but also loves to eat everything “that tastes good.”
Van and Amy Loc, owners of Lotus Seed Vegetarian Restaurant, have a passion for healthy food, and share it with Vancouverites. Van says he founded his business because he wanted to make better choices for himself and his family; in terms of food, that meant offering healthy and vegetarian dishes. Originally from Vietnam, Van chose to do fusion cuisine for his restaurant, and he believes that Vancouver is a good place for a place like this.
“People are very health conscious here, and Vancouver is a diverse and open city,” he says.
Local ingredients, local supplies
A rising trend in sweet treats is found in an increased use of organic ingredients. Dan and Ken Kim, owners of Soft Peaks, a soft serve ice cream shop in Gastown that opened early this year, say healthy, organic ingredients are essential for them, too. Dan Kim believes that Soft Peaks’ success is mainly due to the healthy choices he and his brother made.
“Our soft serve consists primarily of organic ingredients; if it’s not organic, it’s at least natural,” he explains.
Kim says he and his brother want to use the best possible ingredients. Since the most important ingredient in their soft serve is milk, the brothers spent a lot of time finding the right one for their store. In the end, they decided on local organic milk . Additionally, they receive equipment like cups, spoons, and napkins from local suppliers. Their signature soft serve includes honeycomb topping from the Okanagan and Fraser Valley. Kim believes that this topping, which originated in Asia, draws attention to the store – he and his brother are passionate about offering variety.
“It’s fun to choose from a wide array of toppings!” he says.
Born in Korea, the brothers, who have always shared a passion for food, came to Canada as children. They travelled a lot, and visited places where soft serve gained popularity long ago.
“We visited soft serve shops in New York, L.A. and Seoul and decided that we wanted one in Vancouver as well,” says Dan.
Emerging ethnic cuisines
Compared to ten years ago, Ng noticed one major change in Vancouver’s culinary scene: the rise of ethnic cuisine.
“Vancouverites have become more and more adventurous,” she says, explaining that a decade ago, there were barely any authentic ethnic restaurants.
Ng believes this trend will continue, and people in Vancouver will become even more adventurous. She explains that ten years ago, cuisines such as Vietnamese, Thai and Indian were not as popular or accepted as they are now.
Ng launched the Vancouver Foodie Tours in 2010 because of her love for food, and she enjoys sharing her food adventures with other people. According to her, Vancouver is the perfect place for a business like hers, because people in the city are very passionate about food. And while she started it on her own, the business has expanded and she now employs ten professionals.
Some great places for adventurous food lovers, according to Ng, are the various regular night markets happening in and around Vancouver.
“The stalls offer very authentic food and the atmosphere is great,” she adds.
Loc also emphasizes the culturally diverse food stalls, and loved going to the night markets as a child. The International Summer Night Market in Richmond includes iconic street food, as well as innovative street food, such as banana spring rolls and deep fried avocado and crabmeat.