This miserable wintry day (it’s currently -40 in the Capital City) has me thinking back to the glory days of summer. If you close your eyes I bet you can picture it… Nothing says summer in Edmonton like festivals. And nothing says festivals in Edmonton like a green onion cake. This brings me to an Etown classic: the Servus Heritage Festival (aka Heritage Days).
From their website:
“The Servus Heritage Festival is the place to be during the August long-weekend. Nestled in Edmonton’s scenic river valley, bordered by lush ravines and the North Saskatchewan River, the Festival draws visitors from around the Edmonton capital region and across the continent to spend some time sampling the tastes, smells, sights, and sounds of a diverse array of cultures.”
Array indeed! This past year’s festival boasted the sights, sounds and foods of over 85 cultures. The festival is an absolute must should you find yourself in Edmonton over the August long weekend. Now I could take some time here to gripe about the ever rising prices (10 tickets for fried plantains Congo!?!), but instead I would like to talk green onion cakes. Better late than never, am I right?
For the naysayers among you, particularly those who claim green onion cakes are not at Edmonton thing, I use Heritage Days as my Exhibit A. Now it is well documented that the dish, known in Mandarin as cong you bing, originates from mainland China. More specifically, from northern China where you find wheat, not rice to be a dietary staple. Why then, at Heritage Days, an Edmonton festival that invites countries and cultures to bring their finest in wares, entertainment and food, did we have 5 (FIVE) pavilions selling green onion cakes!?! Because we are cray cray for the stuff!
China 4 tickets
I should start by saying that my expectations were set high for China. This is after all a Chinese dish. And their pavillion was all kinds of shazam! A smorgasbord for the senses. Martial arts, dragon dancers, music, AWESOME. This was also my first GOC of the day. MAJOR GOC BUST. After waiting over 45 minutes in line for it, it arrived slightly burnt; I sent it back and asked for an unburnt one, and my request was greeted with dismay. It was served uncut which made it rather difficult to handle with your choice of soya or sambal oelek. . The cake itself was baked, not fried and was very dry. It didn’t have any layering which made it taste “doughy”. In retrospect, worst of the day. 1 star out of 5
Malaysia/Singapore 4 tickets
To be fair to Malaysia, I was eating it cold (through no fault of theirs). I had sent a friend to grab one for me and she got understandably distracted by the Ethiopian dancers. Fair. It was a totally different type of green onion cake than the Chinese one. This one was fried. The batter was quite dry on the outside but seemingly uncooked on the inside. My guess: the oil was too hot. It was quite salty, but had quite a bit of the green onion flavour. The chunks of green onion could have been cut smaller. 3 stars out of 5
Taiwan 4 tickets
This green onion cake was quite tasty, but the grease! Man alive! You could never have this as a street food as you’d need 6000 napkins to manage the mess. This cake was translucent. It was tasty, but you never want a green onion cake to leave you feeling guilty. 2.5 stars out of 5
Hong Kong 4 tickets
This was the best cake of the day. It was served with plum sauce, soya as well as Rooster sauce. This one also came not cut-up which led me to believe it’s more of a heritage days thing than a traditional thing. It was as tasty as the Taiwanese one without all the grease. 4 stars out of 5
Borneo 5 tickets
Very similar to the Malaysian green onion cake, but better cooked. This was also my fifth and final cake of the day so the fact that I could stomach it at all suggests that had I had it first, it may have beat out Hong Kong. It was also the only cake that cost 5 tickets. 4 stars out 5
I hope to see other countries tackle the green onion cake at next year’s festival. Maybe Poland can pair it with sausage? Or how about a greek souvlaki with a green onion cake instead of pita?