During Memorial Day weekend, I decided to explore downtown San Diego on my own for the first time. Living all the way up in Carlsbad, about 30 miles away, without a car makes this a long and/or expensive trip, but with the Smash tournament going on later that evening I figured I’d make the most of my day in downtown while I’m there. First stop, Balboa Park, possibly the most iconic landmark of San Diego (celebrating its 100th anniversary this year!). Known for over a dozen museums, theaters, gardens, and its zoo, even without a plan for the day I knew I’d enjoy myself there. I was just planning to check out a few museums, perhaps sit down somewhere and read, but turns out there was this fantastic event going on: the Annual Ethnic Food Fair. Coincidentally I was just dropped off from my Uber ride at the one spot in Balboa Park where this was taking place.
I love these cultural events, and this one was probably the most exciting one I’ve experienced thus far! Not only did this event feature a total of 33 different countries, but most of these countries offered small servings, allowing me to get a taste of what they all have to offer. As a Chinese foodie who’s been raised through dim sum lunches, this experience was definitely one I’ll appreciate for quite a while.
Unfortunately despite providing small servings, our stomachs can still only handle so much! Only being able to try out seven different countries, I wish I was able to eat more but my stomach felt like it was going to explode before heading off to enter the Smash tournament. For the limited time I had here though, it was still a worthwhile visit!
I’ll go through a quick run through of what I had there! All images below are just from Wikipedia pages and will link to those respective pages (if Wikipedia pages exist for them).
China: Milk tea
Of course as a boba connoisseur, I just had to get myself a drink since bubble drinks are hard to come by in North County. For those who don’t know, it’s a simple mix of… well, milk and tea, with black tapioca pearls (boba) added. Unfortunately I don’t think the fair pulled this off too well. It wasn’t too sweet, which is great, but the drink as a whole just felt a bit bland, with the boba being too chewy. Still, every bubble drink I can get my hands on is a nice mini trip back home in Hawaii!
These are fluffy, light pancake puffs coated with powdered sugar and a pinch of jam (if I recall correctly, this time they used strawberry jam). I’m a sucker for lightly sweetened desserts (just like how bubble drinks should be), and this one definitely falls under that category. Each serving came with a pair, and the lightness of this dessert was just perfect with all these other foods coming my way.
Similar to my Chinese background of spring rolls, but just seems to be more meaty. Not too uncommon in Hawaii but I haven’t had one of these in a long time. I was fortunate enough to get a pair from a new batch with only a two-minute wait, and when they come out straight from the fryer, ohmagoodnesstheyareamazing. Nice, meaty, oily goodness.
Very similar to sauerkraut, but just a tad sweeter. Still in the end just cabbage (unlike this image which has mushrooms). Intriguing.
Smaller than typical American meatballs. Pickles and jam make this dish a unique combination. It’s extremely uncommon tasting sweets with meat, except maybe pineapple, but I was actually digging that sweetness quite a lot. The sourness from the pickles complements this dish as a whole very well, as does the bread in neutralizing all these intense flavors by the perfect amount.
Best way to kill your arteries. Fried bread with cheese and sour cream. The first few bites were amazing! But after all that oil and cheese, it was just too much for my stomach to handle. Definitely worth trying, but I just wished they had a smaller serving. Never even considered what Hungary had to offer until this event, despite the name of the country.
China: Coconut juice
More China, but… it was in a coconut! Other than that it’s nothing different, haha. Being able to eat up the coconut flesh inside is cool, I guess. Just got it for its unique factor.
Finland: Blueberry Soup with Ice Cream
Surprisingly thick juice from blueberries, plus your standard vanilla ice cream. A nice, simple, sweet dessert with Finland’s renowned berries.
Anyway, why am I writing about this on a blog all about creativity?
Simple. More exposure to new things means more creative work. It’s as simple as that. Even if you’re not in a field that demands creative work, such as accounting or even just food service. Exposing your brain to new sights and new ideas gets your brain to think differently, and will probably get you to work more efficiently through new approaches.
It’s actually pretty crazy on how many new ideas flow through my head as I go through new experiences like this. Especially after seeing basically the entire world in just a few hours? All this novel information, especially through food, is exciting! If we were to apply ourselves every day by exposing ourselves to new things, from events like this to simply trying out a new item or flavor at your local restaurant, to just driving to work on a different route, who knows just how refreshing and stimulating that can be to the mind?
If you get the chance to travel, do it! This event is nothing compared to traveling, but for the sake of a weekend just staying in town, this did me wonders, and I’m glad to have stumbled upon this moment of serendipity.