Pacific Palate: Don Genova

Step outside your comfort zone and taste the world

We tend to take things for granted in our food lives because there is so much diversity and abundance in the ingredients available to us, not only for cooking at home, but also in the ethnic restaurants in Victoria. Considering some of the past wrongs some of our governments and individuals have wreaked on hopeful new Canadians, I think we are lucky these ethnicities have been kind enough to forgive those indiscretions by bringing their rich cuisines to our shores and sharing them with us.

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit with Vikram Vij, head of a growing Indian restaurant, take-home and spice trade business, as he visited his latest venture, Sutra, in the Victoria Public Market. He took pains to remind me that even after all these years of Indian cuisine in Canada, he still has to explain that all Indian food is not wickedly spicy hot, nor is “curry” something that you can be allergic to since it can be made up of so many individual herbs and spices. Vij would like to see all Canadians eating Indian food once a week, cooking it at home as they would their weekly pasta or meat and potato dishes.

While you can learn how to cook Indian with instructors like Chef Heidi Fink and Khalil Aktar of CBC Radio Victoria, you shouldn’t miss another opportunity to immerse yourself into Chinese-Canadian culture as the Year of the Horse arrives on Jan. 31. At the Hotel Grand Pacific, executive chef Rick Choy will celebrate Asian New Year with a special weekend menu that blends tradition with modern specialties such as a Jasmine Tea Panna Cotta and Stir-Fried Garlic Prawns. And while the Lion Dance parades through Chinatown on Feb. 10 at noon, nearby Silk Road Tea will serve some very special “Chinese Tea Treasures.”

Even if you’re not an adventurous eater or drinker, taking a tiny step outside of your comfort zone can be very rewarding. And you just might find a new flavour you love.

Don Genova is heard every Thursday afternoon at 4:35pm with his Food Matters column on CBC Victoria. In April, TouchWood Editions will publish his first book, Food Artisans of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Find him online at dongenova.com.

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