Vancouverites love their farmers markets and in this edition of Stars of Vancouver they made their favourites known by voting for Trout Lake, Kits and Nat Bailey as their favourite locations to grab fresh baguettes, corn on the cob, grass-fed beef and, now, even craft wine and liquor.
Chef Keev Mah, formerly of Sai Woo, is also a big fan of this city’s farmers markets. Chef Mah shared a few thoughts about them.
Why are you a fan of farmers markets?
I absolutely love the farmers markets and being able to directly connect with the farmers who grow the food we eat. It’s a blessing to have a dialogue and connection with people who handle and grow the food we eat. While some can consider food merely for sustenance, as a society we have let corporations control and decide what we eat. The corporations don’t have our best interest in mind. Just talking to and tasting the produce of the farmers is sooo worth it. It’s also a great way to spend a couple of hours outside.
Are we blessed in Vancouver that we have access to such great produce? Or is it standard everywhere you’ve lived?
We are indeed blessed in Vancouver to have seasonal variety in our produce, while having adequate sunshine yearly. We’re also blessed to have farmers who are diligent and knowledgeable in pursuing this as a career. It’s a lot of hard work with challenges such as finding temporary labour when needed on short notice. It’s great to see so many cities in the world having access to farmers markets, access to farms that practice agricultural biodiversity and access to better tasting food with less carbon footprint.
I think Vancouver is fortunate to have a culture of dedicated professionals (farmers, vendors, researchers, chefs etc.) who are committed to growing great products (not limited to farms) with consideration of sustainability and future generations. This is a blessing. In many regions of the world, this is not the case. Food is often looked at as a commodity and/or sustenance for survival. There is less emphasis about quality and the future.
Do these wonderful fruits and vegetables inspire you?
It’s very inspiring especially when you taste the fruits and vegetables cultivated with love and passion. For example, take a beautiful heirloom tomato, blanch it lightly, remove the skin. Then I steep (low simmer) the tomato in a well-flavored dashi or mushroom tom yum broth for hours. You end up with a beautiful, warm, umami-filled tomato. While great on its own with a little broth, it’s also a great start to get inspired to create a beautiful dish with this warm umami-filled heirloom tomato.
When working with farmers at the restaurant, often they will have crops that are deemed best suited for “chef” use because there isn’t a demand or perceived market to the public for this crop. Also, more restaurants are keenly utilizing foraged items on their menu. Almost without fail every year, there will be something new in the market. It’s very exciting and inspiring.