First-ever Vancouver Hong Kong Fair bringing together community, identity and nostalgia

·2 min read
Sharon Chan, the owner of Mama In The Kitchen and Fontane Ma, the owner of Itchy Ichi, are pictured in Vancouver, British Columbia on Thursday, May 12, 2022.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Sharon Chan, the owner of Mama In The Kitchen and Fontane Ma, the owner of Itchy Ichi, are pictured in Vancouver, British Columbia on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

When Sharon Chan thinks of home, she thinks of the street food that can be found near where she used to live in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong: curry fish balls, steamed rice rolls, and shrimp and pork dumplings known as siu mai.

"The whole street, you can smell everything. And crowded noises. Cantonese. Everyone is so happy," she recalled.

"My mom and my brother — we went down there in our pyjamas and slippers and grabbed all the food."

Those are the memories that Toronto-born Chan — who lived in Hong Kong until 2020, when she and her family moved to Vancouver — wants to invoke on Saturday when she sells her own version of curry fishball sauce and other chili oils at the first-ever Vancouver Hong Kong Fair.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

As Hong Kong continues to face political turmoil due to the Chinese government's tightening grip on the city, organizers of the Vancouver fair say the event is a way to celebrate Hong Kong's unique culture and build a sense of community among the diaspora in the Lower Mainland.

"What we're trying to do is to provide that safe space, provide that community for them to take refuge in and find comfort and find common language and find people with the same experiences," said Heiky Kwan with the volunteer organization, HK House.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"There is a lot of sense of loss within the community and that's why events like this can be comforting."

Fontane Ma, who makes handcrafted bags and accessories, is also one of over 50 vendors participating in the fair.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she has not been able to visit her family in Hong Kong for almost three years, she said.

"I make these to remind me how good Hong Kong was," she said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

In addition to food and crafts, the fair will also showcase film and other cultural traditions, and replicate the bustling atmosphere that can be found in markets in Hong Kong, Kwan said.

"There'll be mahjong and there'll be some childhood games," she said. "And so it's going to be quite loud and busy, just like the streets of Hong Kong. And I think a lot of folks really miss that."

Chan said the fair is significant for her and her children.

"We left our hometown and now we hear all Hong Kongers are getting together, preserving our culture," she said.

" Once I know that we're all together at that event, I can imagine that's like home."

The inaugural Vancouver Hong Kong Fair takes place at SFU Harbour Centre on Saturday.

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