Since 1995, Columbus' annual Asian Festival has been showcasing and celebrating the diverse cultures of the entire Asian continent: from Japan to India; Mongolia to Indonesia.
This year's festival, which will take place over the Memorial Day weekend, will place special emphasis on Filipino and Korean heritage while also featuring a vast array of events from Japanese drummers to Indian dance troupes, Chinese tea ceremonies and Bangladeshi folk dancers. Visitors will also have the opportunity to watch Asian games like Ping-Pong and Sepak-Takraw (Malay-Thai kick volleyball); see cultural exhibits from participating nations; attend martial arts performances, and shop for gifts in the Market Place.
The first two days of the festival will take place at Franklin Park in Columbus, and culminate on Memorial Day with a Dragon Boat (a traditional, highly decorated Chinese long boat) race on the Scioto River at Genoa Park.
Perhaps the festival's biggest draw, however, will be the selection of delicious foods available. A wide range of Asian cuisine will be represented, including Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Indian and Japanese.
It comes as no surprise that a Columbus event can offer up such a tasty selection of food, as the city is home to more than its share of excellent Asian restaurant and markets. Often you will find the best cooking in unexpected places; like a few of my favorites:
Arirang, 1526 Bethel Road
Bethel Road is home to a number of Asian businesses, and one of the best is the Korean market Arirang. Here, you can pick up Korean groceries at the grocery store then sit down for a meal at the tiny attached restaurant. One of my favorite dishes here is the Dolsot Bibimbap (a mixed rice, vegetable and meat dish served in a hot stone bowl). All dishes come with traditional banchan, a selection of small dishes that change every day, and hot barley tea is complimentary.
Bangkok, 3277 Refugee Road
Like Arirang, Bangkok Restaurant is attached to a grocery store. As you would expect, it is Thai groceries and food on offer here. Though the location of Refugee Road is unappealing, the restaurant is filled with charming images of Thailand and even more charming service staff. While Bangkok offers a handful of Chinese-American dishes as well as Thai, I feel that to order them (in an authentic Thai restaurant) would be a shame. Some of the best dishes include the pad prick pao ground pork dish, tom yum soup and pad thai (fried noodles with egg, chili, peanuts and your choice of meat or tofu).
Fresh Street, 1030 N. High Street
Fresh Street is the project of a Japanese/Korean-American couple that began life in a tiny Short North pizza shack and now has a permanent home at the atmospheric Brewery District bar/lounge Double Happiness. Fresh Street offers a changing menu (that you can keep up with via their Twitter), of savory Japanese crepes, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and small bar bites.