16 February 2024

The Multicultural Festival is on again! Here's what we'll be eating ...

| Lucy Ridge
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Man clicks tongs while grilling

Treat yourself to something off the Vietnamese barbecue at the National Multicultural Festival. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

The Multicultural Festival is back, bigger and better than ever! After record-breaking crowds in 2023, the festival continues to expand and organisers are hoping to attract similarly large numbers (despite forecast thunderstorms on the usually popular Saturday).

With a dizzying array of food and drink stalls, we’ve done the hard work to select the ‘best of the fest’ for you to try.

The festival has spread further into Glebe Park, extending around the perimeter, and features two large stages and a workshop tent. Stalls are more spread out, to avoid congestion issues along City Walk, but with so much food in all festival areas, it’s hard to go wrong!

One of the joys of the festival is trying out cuisines that are not always readily available.

Ethiopian food has gained popularity in Canberra, thanks to cooks at the Canberra Food Co-operative and Canberra institution Fekertes Ethiopia, but other African countries like Nigeria also have excellent dishes to try.

Victor from Victor’s Kitchen explained that there were lots of different ways to cook jollof rice depending on where you come from. It’s a popular African rice and tomato dish and, with several different stalls all showcasing their special variations, festival-goers can have a full tour! He says his akara bean cakes are also a must-try specialty.

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Meat on a stick is a festival favourite for all omnivores and there’s plenty of options from Vietnamese grilled skewers, Balinese chicken satay, to Iranian joojeh kabab.

If you have a craving for something grilled, my best advice is to follow your nose and follow the smoke! From skewers on gas-fried barbecues, kebabs on open air charcoal burners to jerk chicken in Jamaican kettle drums, there will be flavours in the air all over the festival.

Dumplings are always a popular festival treat, whether you try Tibetan or Nepali momos or Japanese Gyoza. A stall of Bhutanese dumpling makers were busy at work on Friday afternoon getting ready for a big weekend. They estimate that they will hand make more than 10,000 dumplings over the three days of the festival.

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You can always select your food choices based on how colourful the stall is, and surely the AusPak Women’s Association will be top of the list with their beautiful banner. They designed it to look like the colourful hand painted trucks in Pakistan, and their food is all handmade with love.

With all that walking and eating, hydration is important! The Da Valiance Tongan community exercise group have prepared traditional otai: a drink made with shredded coconut, condensed milk and pineapple. Flavoured with mango, watermelon or apple, it’s a refreshing way to stay cool this weekend.

The National Multicultural Festival is on from Friday 16 February to Sunday 18 February. Visit the website for more details.

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