It’s that time of year again. The days are longer, the nights are warmer and, on the outskirts of Richmond, the fish balls are frying. The city’s night market – modeled after traditional nighttime bazaars in Asia – opened up shop last Friday. For those who’ve never experienced the madness first hand, Richmond’s market brings together merchants selling everything from samurai swords to knock-off sunglasses, vendors hawking decadent Asian street snacks and thousands of nightly visitors, all in an outdoor setting with a carnival atmosphere.
Running on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through September, the market strikes just the right balance between kitsch, culture and cheap street food and is definitely worth a visit. To get you in the mood for those fish balls, here are five reasons to visit the Summer Night Market in Richmond.
1) The food. Eating is probably the top priority for most people at the market. Working from cramped outdoor booths, cooks turn out an incredible selection of Asian treats, from the ever popular Japanese red-bean pancakes to Korean barbecue and Hong-Kong style dim-sum. The food is cheap and unfailingly authentic.
2) The haggling. There aren’t many places in Vancouver where you can name your own price, which makes the market unique. Got your eye on a nice pair of “designer” sunglasses? Discount Avatar Blu-ray? Hello Kitty cellphone cover? Don’t even think about paying full price. The give and take of bargaining is an intrinsic part of night market culture. Start the bidding low and enjoy the experience.
3) The contests. Aside from the food, the main draw for lots of visitors are the quirky contests at the night market. Saturday features the ever-popular fishball eating contest, as well as a fried chicken eating contest sponsored by Church’s Chicken. There are also Michael Jackson impersonating competitions and even baby crawling races. The games are tacky, tawdry, often in questionable taste and irresistible to watch.
4) The takoyaki stand. Japan-ophiles flock to the night market for takoyaki – fried dumplings made with batter, octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onion and topped with a glorious lather of ponzu, mayonnaise and other sauces. At the night market, the dumplings are turned out assembly-line style by a trio of cooks working at blinding speed in a cramped booth.
5) The karaoke (Bring it back!). There’s something captivating about bad karaoke. Who doesn’t secretly enjoy watching bathtub crooners butcher beloved classics on stage? For years, karaoke was a staple of the Richmond night market, where on any given Friday you could catch an ear-splitting rendition of Dancing Queen or Total Eclipse of the Heart. Sadly, organizers decided to nix the karaoke this year, citing negative feedback from visitors. I’m not sure who they were talking to. Bring back the karaoke!
Anybody else a fan of the Summer Night Market in Richmond? Any favorite snacks? Contests not to be missed? Please let us know below.