I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the crusade. “Are you still doing that green onion cake thingy?” they say. I like how they call it a thingy. Like it’s some sort hobby. Like needlepoint or river dance.
OK I know. It’s been awhile. Life has a way of getting in the way sometimes. It’s not like I haven’t been thinking about it. The cakes been on my mind something fierce of late. The dawn of festival season probably has something to do with it. But I guess it’s taken something truly inspiring to cure me of this literary drought.
Today I found myself wandering the festival circuit on a glorious Etown summer day. The kind of day we dream about in February. The kind of day that feels 48 hours long. The kind of day that you could drink beer all day and never get drunk. THAT day.
The kiddos frolicked through Artwalk on Whyte and kindly let us meander over to the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market. The people watching alone made this an adventure. I’m sometimes amazed at the diversity this prairie city has on display.
Our next stop was the Hawkers Market East Meets West Chinatown Fest. A celebration of local food was set to feature a number of local food vendors serving up both eastern and western fare. As the owner of a 5 year old with an obsession with all things Chinese, this seemed like a natural fit.
We arrived right as the festival opened. From the get go we knew they were doing at least one thing right: They had shut down a couple of blocks on 97th St and were having the festival in the street. Artwalk take a note. E’rybody likes a party in the street. We wandered the area and perused the food trucks at the ready: Atilla the HUNgry, Nhon Hoa Sandwich Bar, One Cool Cookie, SoCal Smoothies, and Knosh Catering were all on hand to feed the hoards.
A quick peruse of their menus alerted me to one very disappointing fact: No. Green. Onion. Cakes. WHAT??!!!? How was it possible that at a FOOD festival celebrating eastern and western cuisine that our fair #egoc was not represented? This city can be so confusing sometimes.
I shuffled off to enjoy the dragon dances (I love it when they flutter their eyelashes) in an effort to distract myself from the disappointment. I found myself standing next to Mayor Don Iveson and Ward 6 Councillor Scott McKeen who both seemed to be enjoying the festivities. I had met Scott a number of times through various city initiatives, and he introduced me to the Mayor as “The Green Onion Cake Lady”, a moniker that I’m starting to hear on the regular. Hell I’ve even heard myself use it! Here’s where things get good.
Don says to me, he says: “Ya, so someone over there is selling a green onion cake donair. I was gonna try one myself but just thought I’d wait a little bit.” So casual; like it’s an everyday thing. Green onion cake DONAIR????? I thought this was a thing of fable. I MUST HAVE ONE.
I set off in search of the wonderful bastard. I asked every damn food truck. Nope. Not even Atilla the HUNgry who specialize in food that is “a fusion of Asian ingredients with North American comfort food”. Kinda a natural fit, non?
I half expected to see Omar Mouallem hawking them outside the festival gates, when I came upon Edmonton’s most in-touch culinary genius: Adam Zarycki of Long Lost Foods. An unassuming gentleman, Adam seemed quietly aware that he had created a masterpiece. Long Lost Foods is a collective of vegan chefs who work through a network of pop-up restaurants, farmer’s markets and catering events to bring fun, unique, delicious food to the masses. Wait. Vegan? Ok, you still with me?
Born and raised in Edmonton, he grew up with green onion cakes, eating them everywhere. As a vegan, he was always looking for ways to re-create food in ways that are suited to a vegan diet (check out Sailin On for vegan bacon WHAT!) but also push the boundaries of vegan cuisine so it’s not just tofu and beans to round out every meal. He loves green onion cakes (who doesn’t?). He misses donairs (who wouldn’t). It seemed like a match made in heaven.
When I asked him how long he’d been doing it, his answer surprised me: the creation was but 10 days old! This was actually only it’s second appearance on the menu (the first being the 124th Street Grand Market where it sold out in two and half hours!).
Now I should caution you: I’m probably as close to a meatatarian as they come. This vegan donair “meat” kinda had me spooked. I try to stay away from foods that require quotation marks. But the sheer notion of someone combining two Edmonton staples into one was enough to get me to try it.
To be true, it resembled more of a sammie than a donair. Not much bigger than a breakfast sandwich, the donair meat was sandwiched between two grilled #egocs. Rounding off the affair were some grilled green peppers, red onion, carrots and some kind of delicious aioli. The whole thing was tied together in true #egoc fashion with a side of Sriracha hot sauce.
I LOVED it. The cakes where grilled to perfection and salted delicately. You could see the green onions peeking through the flaky crust. The creation as a whole was delightful with the crunchiness of the carrots, the texture of the meat and the softness off the green pepper complimenting each other splendidly. And don’t be fooled by it’s size: that thing was filling! And if you’re worried about the “meat” thing, don’t be. I gave half to my huzzie to try and he didn’t even know! He said (and I quote) “donair meat is always kinda weird.”
But hey Edmonton, Adam needs your help! This beautiful beast is as yet nameless. Whaddya think? Edmonton Donair? Yegonair? Or my personal fave YONAIR!!
5 out of 5 stars