A night market is an open air street market that operates from late evening to night. Market-goers stroll the crowded walkways between tented stalls, arranged in rows side-by-each. Merchants shout at attendees, boisterously encouraging them to stop and purchase their wares.
Each stall is temporary, assembled in the evening and dismantled at night. They feature everything from artisan handmade jewellery, electronic gadgets, toys, clothes, and household appliances to “hawker”-style food, usually some great street food snacks. And yes, there is often a component involving “grey market” consumer good like borderline counterfeit handbags.
These markets are largely popular in marketplaces in Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, and Thailand. In North America, night markets are often hosted to celebrate Chinese, Korean, and Japanese culture.
Take for instance the T&T Waterfront Night Market in Toronto and Lions Communications Summer Night Market in Richmond, British Columbia. While the former runs for just 4 evenings, featuring events like live performances, the latter is held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from May until October.
Tens of thousands of people attend North American night markets. Organizers of this year’s “Night it Up” in Markham, Ontario, expected upwards of 100 000 people to walk through their gates.
The Globe and Mail‘s Anita Li, recently came up with a top 5 list of things to eat at an Asian night market: barbecued squid, oyster omelets, colourful rice crackers, shaved-ice desserts, and tofu dessert (dao fu fa).
Well, Ottawa had its inaugural night market two weeks ago, organized by Kenny Chau of Century Event Planning. While small, restricted to the parking lot behind Laurier Optical in Chinatown, it met many of the requirements for a night market: it opened rather late into the night, it hosted a number of multicultural vendors selling ethnic products, and it hosted several creative food concessions.
Attendees of the Ottawa Turkish Festival will recognize the artisans at this stall.
Aahar is an Indian Restaurant located in Westboro (727 Churchill Avenue N.)
And yes, the Asian beef balls served are different from North American beef meatballs. Their texture is more chewy than soft. These are the same beef balls you will find in Vietnamese pho noodle houses.
Participating Ju Xiang Yuan (641 Somerset Street W.) also served 1 out of Li’s 5 must eats: grilled squid (prepared spicy with a chili sauce).
The squid was deliciously tender, slightly smokey, and very spicy (owing to both a ground whole spice rub and chili glaze).
Now, here are photos from the Richmond Night Market, during 2007. While slightly dated, here are some foods I hope to see at the next Ottawa Night Market:
Takoyaki, Japanese octopus ball dumplings, are one of my favourite street foods, made by surrounding a piece of tender but chewy octopus in a savoury pancake-like batter.
Before you think the last item outlandish, Taste Ramen + Fusion on Bank Street (197) serves takoyaki, only deep fried and not made with the molds.
To Century Events Planning, you captured the feel of a night market. Jenn, Claire and I had a blast, wandering the stalls. We hope you bring the event back next year, bigger and better.
Aside: Looking back at our photos from the Richmond Night Market, I don’t think Ottawa is ready for this vendor…though…