Last weekend, I made the trek to Cheung Chau Island for its annual Bun Festival. As expected, the island was packed, mostly with local Hong Kongers who ferry-ed their way over for a day of buns and fun in the sun. Along the ferry pier and all around town, vendors peddled adorable bun-themed paraphernalia and, of course, food. The festival’s namesake is a simple steamed white bun filled with traditional lotus paste and emblazoned in pink with the Chinese characters for ‘peace’ (so I’m told). For the entire day these buns were sold up and down every street, filling the air with puffs of smoke and the sweet smell of fresh mantou.
Bun cushion for sale, with a removable top!
Yours truly drawing your attention to the huge bun towers:
Waiting for bun glory:
In addition to the buns, the other major food draw (and, let’s be real, the main reason I decided to enlist in the bun festival legion) were the vegetarian burgers being served at the island’s one McDonald’s. Vegetarian + McDonald’s. Exactly. So naturally, I had to see this culinary phenomenon for myself.
The burger itself was kind of disappointing, not much more than a fried bread crumb patty, with an occasional pea or kernel of corn, with some mayo and limp lettuce between the all too familiar McDonald’s sesame buns. But the mere reality of McDonald’s selling a “McVeggie” burger more than compensated for the otherwise inexcusable quality of the actual product. Why do I feel like a McVeggie burger would not fly in the States? In one corner, you’d have the loyal fast foodaholics storming around, fuming and frothing because their most beloved restaurant chain has been violated by that yuppie liberal institution of vegetarianism. Needless to say, no amount of grease leaching into these patties would compel these individuals to put their hands on, or stuff their mouths with, such non-food. In the other corner, you’d have the herbivores and their vegan-locavore-vore-vore-vore wingmen, who would take a moment from inventing new pet names for their exclusive eating habits to cast an indignant glance at the sight of this pathetic burger that has done nothing to deserve such self-righteous disdain. Unable to justify the lowly $3US or so it would cost to purchase such a pallidly inedible creature, no doubt mass-produced with run of the mill, non-organic ingredients with the life processed out of them – non-food of a different sort — they’d turn back to their $15 concoctions of frisee, baby arugula, beets, and chevre (though hold the chevre for me, can’t you see i’m a vegan?), smirking in the knowledge that they are one of the select few in the know.
Whew! I’m obviously being facetious, and this is totally tangential by the way, but my point is that I think a lot of people take food too seriously. I know I’m definitely prone to fall into that category as well, given my natural interest in food, which is why I try to keep this blog as light and informal as possible. As with most other conversations, food-related discussions are best when organic (the other kind), open-ended, and open-hearted, such that you can go home at the end of the day knowing you didn’t take a hammer to someone else’s head.
Getting off the island was a pain, but the festive atmosphere, cute trinkets, and good company made the trip well worth it. Yet another reason for locals to eat masquerading as a holiday — I dig it :)
Cheung Chau Bun Festival
2 May 2009 (Parade day)