By Richard M. Reyes & Luis Pedron
NEW YORK - Flushing, Queens - On Labor Day, September 6, 2010, many residents and visitors were on their way to the 7 train line station on Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue. They were on their way to Flushing Meadows Park to see the U.S. Open. However, at the Sheration LaGuardia East Hotel, there were about 600 people present at the debut of the Queens Asian Feastival produced by Wendy Chan, the founder and principal of Definity Marketing. Wendy Chan described the Queens Asian Feastival as a celebration of Asian food. Many Asian countries were represented including: China, Taiwan, South Korea, Burma, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Tibet, India, the Philippines, and Japan.
On the second floor of the Sheraton LaGuardia East was an Asian food feast to satisfy a number of senses: sight, smell, taste, and touch. Chef George Wong, Executive Chef at the Chopstix Restaurant (8405 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY) was on hand demonstrating beautiful works of art featuring hand carved fruit. There were two watermelons carved into different types of flowers and two that were embossed (one was of a man) and a cantaloupe which he carved live in a shape of a rose. Chef Wong explained that the largest and best fruit is the watermelon because it is solid; unlike a cantaloupe with is challenging because if you cut too deep you could cut through the fleshy portion of the fruit and lose the design.
A contest was held by DM News that polled visitors for their votes in three categories: Most Creative Restaurant, Most Popular Restaurant, and Most Delicious Restaurant. The following restaurants took home the titles and were presented onstage with a plaque.
1. Most Creative Restaurant:Payag Restaurant (Filipino)
2. Most Popular Restaurant:Nan Xiang Dumpling House (Shanghainese)
3. Most Delicious Restaurant:Hahm Ji Bach (Korean)
Payag, which means "Bahay Kubo" or "Nipa Hut", voted the Most Creative Restaurant designed their booth to look like a small Nipa Hut with bamboo and featured a lechon as the centerpiece. They served four other items: humba tartlets (cane sugar, peanuts, salted black beans, and star anise), kinilaw canapes - Filipino style ceviche with fresh tuna and cucumber with coconut, and two dessert ensembles - Banana Langka (Jackfruit Toron with Caramel Sauce) and Halayang Ube (Purple yam): Executive Chef Raymond Ganados said that he was surprised and pleased at the turnout considering that it was Labor Day and in the midst of the U.S. Open. A Filipino who tasted Payag's offerings said, "I've never tasted Filipino food like that before."
Nan Xiang Dumpling House, voted most popular restaurant, is best known for their freshly made soup dumplings. These are dumplings (pork and crab) that are filled with a spoonful of soup.
Hahm Ji Bach, voted most delicious restaurant, had a tasty selection of tender Korean Kalbi bbq ribs (comparable to pulled pork), complemented with tofu and kimchi (river cabbage).
Non-dishes included: Pureness Health featuring Brown Rice Vinegar; Golden Star Tea with Jasmine Sparkling Tea - a non-alcoholic beverage which reminds one of champagne, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, Dassai Brewery & Mutual Trading Company - Sake.
Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, the General Manager at Himalayan Yak Restaurant (7220 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights, NY 11372-6335) said he was pleased to see the crowd and have an opportunity to introduce people to Yak Momo's (Dumplings filled with Yak Meat) topped with Avocado sauce. Tashi is joined by other exhibitors who look forward to participating next year with new and creative dishes.
Though some may have missed the popular Srirapthai for Thai Food; Ploy Thai represented Thai Cuisine with two scrumptious traditional dishes popular at the Feastival. Bea Asavajaru from Ploy Thai explained, "Miang Kham which is light snack made from roasted coconuts, ginger, shredded pork, red onion, peanuts, fresh lime; it is chopped and mixed with fish sauce and lime juice and wrapped in betal leaf." and "The Kang Som is a Sour Curry soup with Shrimp, papaya and fish."
Guest speaker Philippine born Chef Michael Ty, the president of the American Culinary Federation was flew in from Las Vegas and explained the role of the American Culinary Federation in America and the benefits of becoming a member. He said, "I'm here enjoying the melting pot of Asia with all different types of food from different parts of Asia, I believe its the first event I have ever been, that exposed all different Asian cuisines equally."
Comptroller John Liu, exclaimed that "Asian Cuisine is #1!" The crowd responded with applause and cheers. Peter Koo, NYC Councilman (Flushing Queens), "I would like to thank Wendy and Veronica Chan for doing a wonderful job in organizing this event successfully bringing the East and West together."
Wendy Chan was joined by her daughter Veronica Chan who congratulated Payag and the exhibitors; they were appreciative of all the hard work invested that resulted in such a great event. Wendy added, "As an Asian American, as a Queens resident, I am so proud that we are coming today to celebrate our culture through food. Food has the ability to bring people together and find our strength to combine our efforts so that we can become a stronger community."