Event: KulturaTO Festival
Location: Dundas Square and other locations
Date: Aug 9, 2015.
This past weekend Kultura TO a Filipino Arts Festival celebrated their 10th Anniversary with events around town including Food and Music at Yonge and Dundas Square on August 9th. I went down to check out their Street Food Battle where their food vendors put up $3 dishes for judging in competition for the best street food.
I didn't try all of the foods that were in competition but I did try and try as much as I could from most of the vendors onsite.
I tried the Pork Belly Pao or Bao as you may know it which is a rice flour bun with arugula, torched pork belly and hot sauce in the bun. It was pretty good but I think I would like it a little more rendered.
All of the dishes were priced at $1 $3 $5 which is very reasonable as compared to some other street food festivals.
At the media preview I tried the calamansi ice tea and the Talo which is a sweet soft tofu dish. Calamansi is a sweet lime that is common in the Phillipines.
One of my favourite things was also one of the least expensive and fastest to get. It was the Lechon bites. Roasted pork that is shredded and put into cones and served with a slaw. Really great taste on the pork.
There were a couple of really long lines, one was for the GUSHI chicken which was odd because Gushi is a Japanese thing but whatever. I had some of the chicken and it was pretty good but I would suggest going to the GUSHI shipping container on Dundas to avoid a lineup. The other long line was for the Sisig fries. Sisig is made from the pork parts that are leftover that I won't go into detail about. It's a pretty big deal for Filipinos and I have had it before at Casa Manila. The fries were ok but I didn't finish it. I got 3 little Deep Fried Sweet Turons at the same booth. Turon is banana wrapped wontons deep fried and coated in a caramel sauce.
I think that's pretty much all I tried and I spent about $14 in total for it all. Pretty reasonable prices but some of the lines moved very slowly. I think I spent about 2 hours in lines waiting for food in total.
A couple of things I would love to change if I had the power. The design of Yonge Dundas Square. You have to stand out in the open sun on hot cement while waiting in line for food so it get's pretty exhausting. There isn't enough seating once you get your food and it's on the other side of the square where people just sit for hours. I would love to see the food vendors flipped to the other side where the seating is and the other vendors to where the food vendors were and then at the back of the square the tables close to Yonge Street so that people could stand in front and sit at the back and still listen to the music and eat their food. I don't know how this would work but flipping the food vendors would put them into the shaded area so at some point in the front of the line you would be covered. I doubt this will happen but that's how I envision the square.
I would also love to advise the food vendors not to make food with a million ingredients that have to be assembled at the time of service. This slows down the lines. That's why there wasn't a long line for the Lechon and slaw because it was made in advance and just plated quickly for service. The deep fried items a super popular but with the small fryers that are in each booth they can't fry food fast enough to keep those long lines moving quickly. If you are going to fry foods then have other foods that are ready to go so people have a choice and the lines can move a bit faster.
As you can see my comments aren't about the actual food because most of these vendors do a really great job with the food but it's the rest of the street festival experience that needs some tweeking in my humble opinion after spending a whole lot of time standing around in the sun at these summer street festivals. More shaded areas with seating is always welcome on a hot day.
There were also a few arts vendors and lots of musical acts all day. I am not familiar with any of the acts that were presented but I must say that a couple of the ones I heard while waiting in line were very good.
I like to go to these cultural festivals because it's a chance to sample foods that you may not get the opportunity to try anywhere else and also be introduced to music and culture of a different culture than what you are normally exposed to. I always encourage people to check out cultural festivals and see what's going on in different communities. It's like travelling in your own country and Toronto is one of the few places in the world that makes this pretty easy to do. Get out and explore some new cultures, you never know what you will learn.