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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Come for the food, stay for the events at the Asian Festival

This year’s festival, in its 31st year, is Saturday at Century II.

By Denise Neil
The Wichita Eagle

Last year, Maggie Chan prepared 800 of her famous pot stickers filled with chicken, cabbage and Thai ginger for the annual Asian Festival at Century II.

They were gone in an hour and a half.

This year, Chan – a veteran vendor at the festival, put on by the Wichita Asian Association – is making more. She’s been working on her booth’s wares for more than a month.

“People will come, and they’ll wait maybe 15 or 20 minutes in line, just to get my food,” she said.

The Asian Festival, a celebration of the large and diverse Asian community in Wichita in its 31st year, will fill two halls of Century II with cultural displays and performances.

But the big draw at the festival, put on by the Wichita Asian Association, is always the hall of foods. Around 40 vendors, both restaurant cooks and home cooks, will be on-site preparing and selling authentic dishes from their home countries – India, China, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Thailand and more.

The food at the festival has grown so popular that last year, organizers had to separate it from the other events. In previous years, all the events were staged in the Convention Hall. But shoulder-to-shoulder food seekers forced the festival to separate the two, and now hungry attendees crowd into Exhibition Hall, where they follow their noses from booth to sizzling booth.

Visitors buy food a la carte, and at many booths, they can watch as items are prepared. Last year’s festival was a sea of noodles and satay and pot stickers. Vendors sold everything from sushi rolls to curry dishes to boba tea to the popular Vietnamese sandwiches called “banh mi.”

Among the popular restaurants participating: Sit @ Thai Bistro, Chiang Mai Thai Restaurant, Passage to India and Boba Zone.

Visitors who spend time in the adjoining hall will see Asian dances, songs and martial arts demonstrations from a variety of Asian countries. The Miss Asia Scholarship Pageant will be staged at the event, and it will also include calligraphy, hand and face decoration, a display by the Wichita Bonzai Society and more.

“Food is the major draw, there’s no question,” said event organizer Mohan Kambampati. “But the quality of the programs also is very good. There are some very unique programs, all presented by local talent.”

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