Thursday, August 18, 2011

Food, Culture, and Friends - Matsuri Japon

Okay, Evelyne has put me to shame by posting about this days ago, so… I really need to write this now.

Last weekend, I hung out with two lovely gals and fellow food bloggers: Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, whom I’ve seen on several occasions, and Mary of Mary Mary Culinary, who was in town for a few days, and whom I was meeting for the first time. Incidentally, Mary was hosting the August Daring Cooks’ Challenge, the deadline of which was only a day away. Fortunately, I’d completed the challenge the day before, so I could confront her guilt-free. :-)

It turns out there were quite a few things to do in Montreal that day, including Gay Pride-related activities, and Otakuthon, which I actually didn’t remember about until Monday. Not that I would’ve forced my two friends to attend an anime convention… But in the end, we settled for another Japan-themed event: the annual Montreal Matsuri Japon festival.

Every year for the past ten years, Matsuri Japon (a masturi is a traditional Japanese festival) has been celebrating Japanese culture. Despite my interest in the latter, I had never attended the event, and was looking forward to finally seeing it for myself.

Finding the location was easy enough: we just followed the throng of yukata-clad girls. You could actually borrow a yukata on site, and wear it around the festival (sadly, I didn’t have a good pic of people wearing the traditional garment, but you can see some in Evelyne’s post). Japanese dyed fabric, jewellery, stationery, toys, and other trinkets were on sale at various stalls.

Of course, being food bloggers, we were (not solely, but mostly) in it for the food. There was quite a bit to choose from, including prepared bento, curry, and noodles. Mary and Evelyne went for the okonomiyaki.

I never understand why the okonomiyaki is so often described as a “Japanese pizza.” “Japanese pancake” is a comparatively better fit, but anyone looking for the fluffy texture of a pancake will be sorely disappointed. The only way I can really accurately describe okonomiyaki is: pan-fried batter with stuff in it, topped with katsuoboshi (dried bonito shavings), aonori (nori sprinkles), special brown sauce, and mayo (and, ideally, pickled red ginger, or beni shoga). The “stuff” you put in it can vary, but usually includes cabbage and shrimp.

The girls had some trouble eating their okonomiyaki with chopsticks (normally, it should be pre-cut into wedges). Meanwhile, I was happily slurping refreshing hiyashi udon, chilled noodles served in a cold light sauce.

I also splurged on a couple of takoyaki, or octopus balls.

It seems to take quite a bit of time to make takoyaki, and they need to be frequently turned over. I really want that apparatus, though.

All of this was happening against a background of entertainment, including traditional dancing and taiko drums. The latter were really impressive, and the players looked like they were having a real blast.

How cool would it be to have one of these in your living room? I can think of a lot of uses for those mallets, too.

There was also the traditional carrying of the shrine. I kind of like that they didn’t even try to make it look like a real, ancient shrine, and just went for a simple design.

The kids had their own shrine (as happens in real matsuri), and they also performed on the drums (I have pics, but they’re sub-par).

I don’t think all matsuri have a dragon, but it never hurts to have one.

It was a very fun event, and it was even better sharing it with my foodie friends. Thanks for a great afternoon, girls!


  1. Oh I did mine last night, that much later. Thank you so much for suggesting this festival Valerie. I would not have known about it if it was not for you. And spending the day is such wonderful company is always awesome. Great pics, I'll copy a few!

  2. It sounds like a wonderful day that had great food and company to commend it. I'll wager you all had a great time. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

  3. Dang! I wasn't aware at all about this event. I can't believe it has been on for the past ten years. I would have been so up for this event. Especially for these tasty octopus balls.

    Thanks for the suggestion for the salmon. If you want to know about UK, I pretty much cover the major attractions/cities in the UK, except for Southern England. We should definitely chat over lunch or dinner. It has been a while... Let me know your availabilities.

  4. What a fun event! Sounds like a great day with great food and great friends too. love those! But having one of those huge drums in my living room? Now that might just be a little bit too much!

  5. Don't feel bad, Valerie--at least you remembered your camera and posted something about the event! You got some great photos and I had a fun time, and I must admit I'm glad you forgot about the anime festival! I'll take okonomiyaki and iced coffee any day.