I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. I want to summarize Steveston’s fishing history as well as the current work to create sustainable fisheries and healthy oceans, all in one post. A lofty goal, Anderson.
Let’s start with this: Steveston’s maritime history is not only responsible for its founding, but is still an active part of its current identity. Did you know it’s home to the largest active fishing port in Canada? You can still go down to the docks and buy fish directly off the boats, and The Gulf of Georgia Cannery’s first annual Best Catch Sustainable Seafood Fest was a huge success.
Built in 1894, The Gulf of Georgia Cannery is a dignified wooden building atop a slope near the waterfront. This national historic site now commemorates west coast fishing, as well as the story of how this cannery – once the largest of dozens in BC – operated in its heyday. This includes not only stories of how the cannery functioned and changed with technology, but also the people who worked within it.
Caucasian, Japanese, and First Nations fisherman, as well as their wives, worked hard at sea and in the cannery itself. Young children were strapped to their mothers’ backs as they gutted fish at the icy cold cleaning table, and children old enough to work did exactly that.
They were placed on the second floor and given the task of refilling the chute in which empty cans (soon to be filled with salmon) were dropped. In other words, entire families worked physically harder each day than I ever will, and built up a hugely successful industry.
One problem with this industry, however, was the amount of fish. The water teemed with them, giving the appearance of an endless supply. We now know the fish stocks are a finite commodity, and a number of groups work tirelessly to promote sustainable fishing and environmental practises. Some of these organizations were at the Best Catch festival, including MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), the City of Richmond, FraserRiverKeeper.ca, and the Vancouver Aquarium’s Oceanwise program.
With free admission for the day, visitors were welcome to tour the inside of the cannery, look at the permanent exhibits, and chat with groups there for the festival.
Seeing as the day was all about seafood, there was also plenty to eat! Outside the cannery, a number of chefs put on cooking demonstrations throughout the day. Karen Dar Woon, Darlene Tanaka, Tahera Rawji (whom I actually assisted years ago during a cooking class in Calgary, small world), and Ian Lai showed various ways to prepare fresh, tasty, sustainable seafood.
They also highlighted several lesser known fish, such as sardines, in order to snap us out of the ‘same-fish-all-the-time’ slump we’ve fallen into.
Inside, Pajo’s offered the biggest samples ever of their newest dish: Roasted Garlic Caesar Salad with Wild Salmon, which….
besides being delicious, was also my lunch! I followed it up with more snacks offered inside, including wild salmon jerky, salmon spread, and a number of dips from the Gourmet Village.
I learned a lot yesterday, and am so glad I went. Congrats to all the organizers of the Best Catch Sustainable Seafood fest – you did a phenomenal job!
Later that day, even with dark clouds brewing, my friend Chris agreed to come with me to the Richmond Night Market. I wanted to try the treats I hadn’t had a chance to on my first visit, but as soon as I left the hotel to meet him at Bridgeport, it started raining.
Hardy fools we are, we went anyways. Then it rained harder! I didn’t want to wreck my camera, so I took a number of soggy, blurry photos on my phone instead.
Here we are, looking like a couple of fish. Actually, drowned rats would be more accurate, but I prefer the first simile because it fits with the day’s theme.
We lasted long enough to get soaking wet and try four new things: a spicy beef roti canai, Indonesian shrimp crackers, something similar to nasi goreng, and dragon’s beard candy.
The first was a small, round roti canai that’s grilled, cut in half, and stuffed with spiced ground beef. It was good, though not exceptional. I’d rather have just had a bunch of roti bread with sauce.
Have I ever mentioned how much I love roti?
The Indonesian shrimp crackers came from the sweetest lady EVER, and cost two dollars. They were crunchy and just faintly shrimpy, and I finished the whole bag off.
Chris got a plate of tofu, potato, hard-boiled egg, and fish puffs in peanut sauce. It wasn’t nasi goreng, but somewhat similar. He asked for extra peanut sauce and she proceeded to douse the plate. I think she would have poured the entire pot on if he hadn’t have said “Ok, that should do it!”
Dragon’s beard candy was the most fascinating find of the night. It appears to have the same texture as cotton candy, but it doesn’t melt in your mouth.
It has substance, and you actually have to chew it.
Not that it’s nutritional! It’s traditionally made from sugar, maltose syrup, and glutinous rice flour; they coat the strands in powdered sugar, then roll them into pillow-like shapes with a mixture of peanut, sesame, and coconut inside. It’s an art form which originated during the Han Dynasty.
It gets the name from its wispy, thread-like fibres, which look like the beard of a dragon (if you’ve ever seen a dragon, you can attest to this).
I liked it, though it’s sort of like eating a sweet cotton ball. We took home a pack of six (three regular and three strawberry) for $3.99. I’d say this is a must-try at the night market, since apparently there aren’t that many vendors outside of China that make them.
There you have it; it’s possible to eat salmon jerky and the beard of a dragon in just one day. And here (as promised earlier) is a video of Chef Ian Lai demonstrating how to grill fresh sardines. It’s what’s for dinner!