More than 30,000 New Yorkers spilled into Times Square over two days to whet their appetites and sample dramatically different cuisines of Asia, tastes ranging from Japanese and Chinese to Indian and Sri Lankan at the Taste Asia Food Fest June 26 and 27.
This 2nd installment of the food fest, a month-long celebration capped by the last two days when winning restaurants and chefs were featured, has become a major draw for tourists and residents alike as a quality addition to what the Big Apple offers foodies. Foodies around New York voted for their favorite restaurants in the specified categories over the month.
About 15,000 votes came through during the voting period from June 1 to 20, according to Seth Holehouse, the contest’s director, Epoch Times news reported. Categories included among others, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Southeast Asian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indian, and Asian fusion, and also specific dishes like best sushi, best Thai red curry, best dim sum, and best kimchi.
Michelin-starred Master Chef Hemant Mathur of Tulsi restaurant and Surbhi Sahni, executive pastry chef at Bittersweet NYC, gave a cooking demonstration celebrating the closing of the festival at James Beard House at an exclusive ticketed luncheon June 28, high lighting authentic Indian dishes and dessert, followed at night with an awards dinner for the Chinese segment of the competition.
At the closing luncheon, Vijay Rao, the owner of Tulsi, which won the best choice for tandoori food, proudly looked on as Sharma worked his magic. He was joined by Eric McCarthy, executive chef at Tulsi.
Bricklane restaurant won in the best Indian Curry category at the festival and was showcased by owner Satinder Sharma. Junoon, which offers contemporary Indian cuisine won the Best Indian restaurant during the voting held through the month-long festival.
Among the surprises at the festival was a lesser-known candidate Spicy Lanka of Queens which ran away with the Best Sri Lankan Restaurant award. Prat Selvachandran, co-owner of Spicy Lanka opened his restaurant after he saw there was virtually no eatery that offered the food he ate, Epoch Times reported. “Sri Lanka’s unique mixture of Chinese, Indian, and Dutch influences makes its food ‘a culinary playground,’ ” Selvachandran is quoted saying in the report.
“You get the taste of sweet, sour, spice: everything in one taste. It literally lifts up your taste buds,” Selvachandran said with its mixture of Chinese flavors from soy sauce, oyster sauce, and chili sauce as well as Indian spices like turmeric, cumin, and mustard seed.
Though East Asian restaurants dominated the scene as did East Asian performers, a group of Indian-American performers from Varsha Naik’s Navrang Dance Company of New Jersey, made up the low representation.
The festival, which began very modestly featuring just one Manhattan restaurant 7 years ago has grown into what organizers claim is the largest Asian food fest in the country featuring more than 500 notable chefs, according to a press release from sponsors NTDTV and Epoch Times. A spokesperson for NTDTV told Desi Talk more than 30,000 visitors interested in sampling different Asian foods came to Times Square over the two days.