The Olympic houses set up around Vancouver have given visitors a chance to sample culinary delights from around the globe. In the mood for authentic Swiss raclette? Head to the House of Switzerland. Bison burgers? Giddy’up to Saskatchewan House. Pickled pork knuckle and sauerkraut? That would be Saxony House.
But what many first-timers to the city don’t realize is that Vancouver has its own United Nations of food. At the Granville Island Public Market, a sprawling waterfront warehouse filled with fresh meat and produce, you can try Ukrainian perogies, Vietnamese spring rolls, curries, German sausages and more, all under one roof.
I stopped by the Public Market today to check out the Olympic crowds. Inside, the narrow lanes between fruit stands and butchers’ cases were packed with people munching on samples, talking and trying to find the perfect dish to bring home. To help me navigate the market and its hundreds of different vendors, I enlisted the help of Edible B.C., which offers daily Olympic tours guided by local chefs.
We started with a Public Market secret gem, the Granville Island Tea Company. The Pacific Northwest may be known for its cafe culture, but this tea shop will make you think twice about your morning Americano. Dozens of tins of loose-leaf ties line the wall, sourced from places around the world. I tried the house specialty, a chai tea made from a secret masala blend mixed with butter, sugar and milk ($2.89 for a small). It’s worth the trip to the Public Market all by itself.
Next stop was the perennial favorite at Granville Island, the Oyama Sausage Company. Oyama is the highest grossing vendor at the market, primarily because its diverse fresh and cured meats are made according to fastidious Old World standards and incorporate the best local ingredients from British Columbia. Offerings range from mouthwatering prosciutto to more exotic meats, including elk pepperoni, wild boar salami and smoked bison (which is $5.99 per 100 grams).
Part of the appeal of a visit to the Public Market is meeting the artisans behind the foods. Today, there were plenty on hand to regale Olympic fans with the stories behind their wares. At the Oddball Organics stall, I met the “garlic guy.” Burly and bearded, he confessed straightaway that garlic was his life. He’s spent the last thirteen years cultivating 19 different varieties, which he incorporates into his signature sauces. I tried a dab of Nuclear Nectar, with honey, garlic and habanero peppers ($8 for a small bottle).
There’s far more to experience at the Public Market, including many gourmet prepared foods, from enchiladas made with fresh tortillas to fish and chips straight out of London. If tours aren’t your thing, just wandering from stall to stall can prove just as rewarding. Vendors are eager to talk and share samples, and almost all of the foods are fresh, with an emphasis on local, sustainable ingredients. The best part: Long after the Olympic houses shut their doors, the Granville Island Public Market will continue bringing international ingredients and dishes from around the world to Vancouver.