Auckland’s 12th annual Lantern Festival will be held this weekend to celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit.
Lantern Festival is a magical thing: Albert Park is studded with lanterns of all shapes and sizes: hanging from trees, peeking out from between sprawling roots, floating in the fountain. Crowds of Aucklanders fill the park and Princes Street, which is lined with stalls selling food and various bits and pieces.
This year’s festival runs from 5 to 10.30 this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Asia New Zealand Foundation has more information about what’s going on each day. The line-up includes traditional Chinese puppetry, 1930’s style Shanghai jazz and a fireworks display.
But this post isn’t about fireworks, it’s about vegan treats! One of the best things about Lantern Festival is the Chinese and Asian food stalls lining both sides of Princes Street, which always include a good number of vegan options. There are a few specifically vegetarian stalls from various vegetarian businesses around town, and other stalls have options as well. Delicious things I’ve eaten in previous years include dumplings, steamed buns, deep-fried spring rolls and Vietnamese summer rolls, grilled corn and various fake meat treats including wontons and kebabs.
Advice for first-timers:
- Don’t eat beforehand! Lantern Festival street food can easily be a whole evening meal.
- A lot of stalls offer deals on bulk treats. Three for $2 always sounds like a good idea, but unless you’re extra-hungry, you probably want to save room to try a wider range of treats rather than filling up at one stall.
- Bring cash – food transactions are quick and bustling, and most places don’t have EFTPOS.
- Things won’t be labelled vegan: use your best judgement and ask questions if you need to.
- If you’re with people, take cellphones and arrange a meeting place. It gets more crowded than you might expect and it’s easy to get separated from friends. On the other hand, expect to run into someone you haven’t seen in years: half of Auckland will be there.